Homily on St. Luke 24:13-35

Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; I Peter 1:17-23; St. Luke 24:13-35


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

On the Road to Emmaus

This incident on the road to Emmaus  takes place on Resurrection Day. We might think our Saviour would be busy or, doing something else, but He makes a priority to strengthen the Church with this particular teaching.  Then later He appears to the eleven and others gathered.

Who are They?

First question I get about this is…which of the Apostles are these…These two “Emmaus disciples” are not part the Eleven.  However, they could well be from among the seventy.

Just so you know, The assumption of the early church’s tradition, (cited by Eusebius), is that Cleopas is Clopas, brother of St Joseph, making Cleopas the uncle of Jesus, and that the other unnamed disciple is Cleopas’ son Simeon, who later would become the second bishop of Jerusalem, the leader of the Jerusalem church after 70.  Simeon died a vicious martyr’s death. Certainly this experience not only gave him strength but understanding to lead the Church during a particularly terrible time.

Seeing but not Seeing

Of course they could see Him – he was physically with them, but their recognition of him is held until there is time for more catechesis or teaching on the road.  Jesus enters their conversation in order to hear from them what they think about his death.  But it is precisely the facts, as they saw them, that caused these Emmaus disciples to stand there in sorrow, they were scandalized by the crucifixion, even though Jesus had predicted he would die.

Christ in the Old Testament

The Emmaus disciples respond with their interpretation of the events of Jesus’ life, confessing to Jesus their despair, and their doubts, showing that, like Moses, they do not fully understand God’s ways.  Jesus must open the Scriptures for these disciples to show them that unless he suffered and died, He could not be the Messiah.  The implication is that the very fabric of the entire Old Testament is Christological, for every thread and theme leads to and centres in the crucified and risen Christ.

They were discouraged and confused. He’s dead!  This is why Jesus shows them the “scarlet thread” – the fact of His required death and resurrection – exactly what we celebrate today.  Because the didn’t have eyes to see, They had lost hope.  Grace was yet required … They needed the ability to see.

What a lesson they got!  He brings forward, therefore, Moses and the prophets, interpreting their hidden meaning and making plain to the worthy what to the unworthy was obscure.  In this way he settles in them the ancient and hereditary faith taught them by the sacred books which they possessed.

He’s connecting their faith with it’s completion. They had it in every part of their lives.  What to eat, how to work, – really, it’s all laid out in the law – and our Saviour points it out for them.  Too bad it is not recorded, eh!

Word and Table

Still, they didn’t know it was Jesus … until…Let’s not miss this – I ask you to intentionally engage your mind here, don’t get troubled by the surroundings.  Yes, we’re stuck at home, having church in our homes – kinda like it began, eh – from house to house…Anyway, please don’t let this bumbling messenger or the circumstances keep you from “seeing”.

From the very beginning – We have The Word and the Table – together. Not “just the Bible” and in this case, the Old Testament!  Recognition of God, Christ in our hearts – does not come merely by the teaching or reading of the Word.

Think for a minute – I’m sure our Saviour shared with these dear brothers and connected all the dots.  There is no better teacher – ever!  He explains, How everything in the old testament points to Him, still – they didn’t recognize Him. – no.  All the greatest preaching, study or any other activity, does not reveal Christ to our hearts, even if He’s walking with you for a whole days journey – as He was with them!

Christ Recognized in the Eucharist

The eyes of the these disciples are kept from recognizing Jesus – because He is now recognized in the breaking of the bread, as He told them.  The same way we recognize Him today. Our souls and spirits receive from Him while our bodies take Him in.

“Ah yes, brothers and sisters, but where did the Lord wish to be recognized? In the breaking of bread. We’re all right, nothing to worry about—we break bread, and we recognize the Lord. It was for our sake that he didn’t want to be recognized anywhere but there, because we weren’t going to see him in the flesh, and yet we were going to eat his flesh. So if you’re a believer, any of you, if you’re not called a Christian for nothing, if you don’t come to church pointlessly, if you listen to the Word of God in fear and hope, you may take comfort in the breaking of bread. The Lord’s absence is not an absence. Have faith, and the one you cannot see is with you. Those two, even when the Lord was talking to them, did not have faith, because they didn’t believe he had risen. Nor did they have any hope that he could rise again. They had lost faith, lost hope. They were walking along, dead, with Christ alive. They were walking along, dead, with life itself. Life was walking along with them, but in their hearts life had not yet been restored.”1

~ St. Augustin

You go ahead and read on … St. Luke 24:28–35 and you see the recognition of Christ in the breaking of the bread.  This Emmaus meal is pivotal because it continues Jesus’ pre-resurrection table fellowship and begins the church’s table fellowship in the celebration of Easter through the sacrament.

Jesus continues to reveal himself in the breaking of the bread that has received his blessing

~ St. Augustine

Christ’s Instruction on the Eucharist

So – He blinds their eyes, until he breaks the bread with them.  This is how the Lord Jesus desires to be recognized – in the breaking of the Bread.  After breaking the bread and feeding thousands, the Lord says this very interesting instruction:

St John 6:47-58

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

I am that bread of life.

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

Real Presence in the Sacrament

These two events and others, are not simply a nice thing to say that doesn’t make sense.  The Church teaches the “real presence” of Christ in the Sacrament.  The Holy Meal is that which brings God into our lives.  We eat His flesh and drink his blood – as He told us we must or, we will not have His life in us.

Then …He blessed the bread, broke it, and they recognized Him.  That’s how you recognize Christ—those of us who believe He is the Christ.  Sacramental orthodoxy is required. The next few events continue the Fellowship at the Table…BBQ on the beach is the next time.

Acts 2:42 – “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

A Real Body

He does not need food but only uses it show that he has risen in his body.

~ St John of Damascus

Thus Jesus eats before them to confirm their faith and to show that he is alive and that the body that appears before them is just like their body, with flesh and bones.

Christ is in Our Midst

Just as the disciples were gathered together, we are now. Christ is in our midst.  In our homes and in this place, we come today to celebrate the Resurrection. This is done through the teaching, fellowship, breaking of the bread and prayers.

We do that, From house to house – Acts 2:46.  We are following very closely – well, 6 feet apart – the true gathering of the Church as the Apostles gave it to us.

Acts 20:7 – “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread”

We can’t just listen to a message, or just pray, or be alone, or take the Holy Elements. The pattern clear – all of these are part of true Christian orthodox Sacramental worship.  The life of the Body of Christ is fed and strengthened in this way.


Finally – Back to the meal… Jesus disappears from them, for from now on, he will be possessed by faith in word and meal.  Jesus continues to be recognized today in the breaking of the bread ~ St. Augustine.  They experienced burning hearts from the teaching of Jesus through the action of the Holy Spirit.

Athanasius Yohan I’s book the Eucharist is a useful tool especially as some have said, the return to normal is only a few weeks away.  So in those few weeks, very few I hope, life may begin to return to a normal. Granted a new normal … nothing will be the same.  I plead with you in the name of God, don’t slip back into the same old, pre-intentional life.  Make sure you keep your practices of praying at home.  Gather your family or housemates daily for fellowship – as the early disciples did.

Find a place to worship that does or figure out how you can celebrate the fullness of Christian worship.  Participate in the wholeness of Sacramental life – hourly, daily and weekly.  So many people around the world have set a new normal for their worship practice and experience. Many of us will have a difficult time giving up the intimacy of our Church at Home.  Now we all have home altars, a new normal. They won’t be put away. We can carry on daily as we have …

If you want help, look at our websites, or contact the church [email protected].  You’ve experienced it – don’t give it up!  That same burning in you can only we quenched by the wholeness of Sacramental Worship.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

~ Rev. Fr. Pat



1 https://catenabible.com/lk/24/13

Melone, Altobello, 1490-1543. Road to Emmaus, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54932 [retrieved June 25, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Altobello_Melone_-_The_Road_to_Emmaus_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.

Homily on St. John 3:1-17

St. John 3:1-17


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

A Familiar Passage

Our Gospel reading is a very familiar one.  It is one that the fathers have written about extensively and has been expounded in our protestant evangelical background extensively albeit with a slightly different focus.  Parts of it were quite puzzling before I understood the historical teaching of the church, that we have learned together over the last several years.

The first thing that we see is that Nicodemus came by night to Jesus, as he was one of the ones at the end of John chapter two who had seen the signs and had believed.  Some have said that the reason that he came at night was because he had to work during the day.  However, none of the fathers, mention anything like this.


Weakness of Faith

So, why did he come at night?  He came because like all of us he struggled with fear.  His faith was not fully illumined by the heavenly light.  He believed because of the signs but he did not yet have understanding of the doctrine.  He came at night to learn more of the mysteries of the faith.

In Nicodemus’ fearful approach, our Saviour does not rebuke or malign him for his fear, but rather in His mercy and grace He explains some of the mysteries of our faith to him.

Born Again

There is some disagreement over how “again” is to be understood/translated both back in the day of the fathers and still today. However, St. John Chrysostom warns us not to miss the point of being born again.  The point is that we cannot we see the kingdom of God without this process.  Through these words our Lord is revealing that His nature is more than meets the eye.  He has both a human and a divine nature.

We need to be born again.  Our first birth came without our choice or knowledge but through our parents.  We are brought up with their habits and their training.  We now, however, have the choice to become the children of God and to learn and to partake of His habits and His training.

Born of Water and Spirit

The phrase being born of water and spirit causes no end of puzzlement, if we do not see baptism as a sacrament, but merely a symbol.  In Bible School, the way Bible survey was taught was to write your own personal commentary with as little preconceptions as possible.  It is probably the closest thing to sola scriptura that you’ll ever see.  This created some theological problems, which I still have to deal with.

For the most part things went smoothly, but this passage caused a lot of confusion.  Because, obviously, baptism isn’t part of salvation so water has to mean something figurative and there were a lot of ideas of what actually that would mean.  However, if we take these verses in the ancient understanding of the church, this is very clearly speaking of baptism.

Baptism, the Womb

The fathers tell us that just as the womb is the place where the child is formed and perfected by the Lord who forms it as he has since the beginning, so also the water takes the place of the womb and the Holy Spirit is the one who forms and perfects the child of God.  Baptism is the death of the old man and the creation of the new.

Nicodemus asks how can one be born again?  The answer is through baptism and the Holy Spirit when we of our own will choose to believe in Christ.  The fathers tell us that this being born of water and spirit is the definition of baptism in the great commission.  As easy as it is to dip the heads of those being baptised and lift them up again is as easy for God to bury the old man and create the new man.

What is baptism?

Baptism is the remission or the forgiveness of sins, but it is also much more than that.  It is a promise of greater and future gifts.  It tells us that the future resurrection will come, it is our garment of salvation and we are clothed in the light of Christ through it.  Because baptism is not merely the forgiveness of sins, we baptise newborns who have not yet tasted of sin.

In baptism our body, heart and soul are cleansed.  Our bodies by the waters, our heart is purified by faith and our souls are washed by the Holy Spirit.  God has created us to be complex creatures and His salvation encompasses the complexity of our nature.  He is not satisfied to save just our souls as Gnostics, in their various manifestations over the centuries, have taught.  He wants to save our entire being, which is why Christians bury the departed rather than practise cremation.

The Mystery of God’s Nature

The Spirit moves where He wants when He wants to and even though we have been regenerated through the new birth, we are still in ignorance of why.  There are some things about God’s nature and what He does that will always remain a mystery that we can trust in.

Christ’s Response

A Rebuke of Pride

Jesus, in His question, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?” was confronting his pride, for He desired Nicodemus to be born of the Spirit.  The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and the Lord resists the proud.  The Fathers tell us that at this point he was puffed up with his mastery and that he thought himself of some importance because he was a teacher of the Jews.

Baptism in the 1st Testament

We need to ask the question, why should he be expected to know that washing of water was part of the rebirth?  These things were hidden in the law and the prophets.  We remember that Jesus will say to the Jews as a whole in a couple chapters that they are searching for life in the Scriptures but are missing Him. Nicodemus was having the same problem.  Ephrem the Syrian points out that the cleansing of hyssop, the waters of ceremonial sprinkling, and the washings of purification are just a few of the things that would have pointed towards this understanding of the rebirth.

The Gentleness of Christ

We must remember though that our Lord did not come to Nicodemus with harshness but showed gentleness.  Christ did not want to crush him with what he should’ve known.  Rather He saw that Nicodemus was ill, but close to being healed.  Nicodemus simply did not understand so the Lord revealed to him the baptism of complete cleansing of body soul.

Christ comes to each of us the same way.  He sees that we were ill in our sins and transgression and teaches us the way of healing.  Cleansing us, He makes us alive in Him.  He does not come to us with harshness or anger but rather with gentleness and tenderness leading us to the truth.

Nicodemus’ Unbelief

We see, however, that part of Nicodemus’ problem was not merely lack of understanding, but also unbelief.  He did not believe earthly things and the question is asked how can he then believe heavenly things?  Lack of understanding can be corrected by further instruction, but if we find ourselves in a place of unbelief, we must ask God to remove the unbelief from our lives.


What are the heavenly things that he is referencing?  The Son of Man is the only one who has ascended and descended from heaven.  In doing this, this One who is divine took on humanity in such a way that Word, soul, and flesh are one in Christ.  Furthermore, He opened up the way of salvation through this descent.  Spiritual birth happens when human beings, being earthly, become heavenly.  (This is theosis which our Metropolitan talks so much about.)  This can only happen when humans become members of Christ.  Therefore, everyone who needs and desires to be changed must come together into union with Christ.  After this Christ who descended might ascend again taking with him the Church whom he considers as his body.  We joined to Christ through the Church may ascend with Him.

The Cross

Christ now concludes His instruction about the gift of baptism and turns to speaking about its source i.e. the cross.  These two together, explain the fathers, declare the immensity of His love more than anything else.  For He both willingly suffered for His enemies and having given His life for His enemies, He freely gave them through baptism the complete and utter forgiveness of all their sins.

The Brazen Serpent

The Fathers make a big deal about the serpent being brazen whereas in the past I have heard more emphasis on the fact that the rod it was placed on was in the shape of a cross.  This may come from the fact that my background and possibly yours as well emphasises the empty cross.  Which is a glorious truth, our Lord is risen and has defeated death.  However, by focusing on this I think we miss a truth that the fathers saw as quite obvious.

The serpent raised by Moses was not real but was made in the likeness of the real serpent.  In the same way Christ took of our flesh without taking our sinful nature.  “In this way, he imitated a serpent through the deceitful appearance of human weakness, so that when He laid aside the slough of flesh, He might destroy the cunning of the true serpent.1

The Evil One Defeated

Christ in our flesh destroyed both sin and also defeated the evil one.  Furthermore, the serpent was raised upon a high base points us to the fact that Christ was clearly manifested or seen by His cross so that it would not be possible for any to fail to see him.  All those who look to him in faith, like those who looked to Moses’ serpent, will be saved forever from the death that they have been rewarded with from sinning in mind and body.

We know as has been emphasised in our backgrounds that Christ did not remain in death through His conquering of death.  The fathers tell us it is impossible for Him to give us life and not have life himself.  He gained life for us by destroying death through His death, but He would not remain in death but would rise again after defeating it.

St. John 3:16

We now come to the verse that if we were raised in the Church, we have known from a very young age.  However, if we received salvation later in life then we probably learned it at least in our first year with Christ.  This verse proclaims to us the intensity of His love.  In the words of St. John Chrysostom,

He laid down His life for us and poured forth His precious blood for our sakes – even though there is nothing good in us – while we do not even pour out our money for our own sake and neglect him who died for us when He is naked and a stranger….We put gold necklaces on ourselves and even on our pets but neglect our Lord who goes about naked and passes from door to door….He gladly goes hungry so that you may be fed; naked so that He may provide you with the materials for a garment of incorruption, yet we will not even give up any of our own food or clothing for him….These things I say continually, and I will not cease to say them, not so much because I care for the poor but because I care for your souls.2

His point is that since we have been saved by so great a love, we should also love greatly.  We show our love for him, as I have said many times in the past, by caring for those who cannot care for themselves.  In this way our souls are cared for and nurtured.  As we receive God’s love we pass it on to others and are thus made capable of receiving more of His love.

God’s Great Love

God gave His only begotten Son that our race might live.  If He had had anything more dear to Him, He would have given it for our salvation.  We are precious in His eyes.  Man had fallen and what was God to do?  He was going to rescue us!  The proof of his love is that He gave His only begotten Son and not an adopted Son.  He gave of himself for our salvation.


  1. Let us ask ourselves, do we fear to come to Christ?  If so let us come boldly being assured that just as He treated Nicodemus with gentleness, He will treat us with gentleness and mercy.
  2. We must as many of us have received His life through the new birth learn and practise our Saviours habits and follow His training.  We are in the midst of Lent which is really good time to focus on adding a certain practise or discipline to add to our lives.
  3. Let us praise the Lord that He is beyond comprehension and that some things about Him will remain a mystery.
  4. If we are without understanding, let us find a more mature believer to train us and teach us so that we can have understanding.  However, if we are suffering from unbelief, we must ask the Lord to heal us and grant us belief.
  5. Let us praise the Lord that He has opened the way to join us to His body.
  6. Let us praise the Lord for His unspeakable love in rescuing us from destruction.

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

~ Fr. Matthew


1 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 123

2 Ibid, 125

Tresham, Henry, 1749?-1814 ; Shipster, Robert. The Macklin Bible — Nicodemus Came to Jesus by Night, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54051 [retrieved May 13, 2020]. Original source: A gift to Vanderbilt University from John J. and Anne Czura..

Unidentified. Moses and the Brass Serpent, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55665 [retrieved May 13, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flemish_17th_century_Moses_and_the_Brass_Serpent.jpg.

Homily on St. Matthew 17:1-9


St. Matthew 17:1-9; Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2; II Peter 1:16-21


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

Transfiguration Sunday

Today, the last Sunday of Epiphany, in the protestant liturgical world is the Sunday of the Transfiguration.  The Roman Catholics celebrate it in two weeks.  The Orthodox formerly celebrated it during Lent as well but it was moved to August as it was probably considered to joyous of a feast for Lent.  The protestants and Catholics seem to celebrate it a second time in August as well.

With Transfiguration preceding Lent, we have a glimpse at the glorified Christ, before we enter the long gruelling time of Great Lent.  We know that Christ must suffer and die, but we know in the end His glorious kingdom will be established.

Three Disciples Only?

In our Gospel reading we see that Jesus only took three disciples with him.  These are the same three disciples that he would later take to pray with Him in the garden.  So, what is special about these three and why did he exclude the other nine?

The Fathers tell us that each of these had prominence or preeminence, above the rest of the disciples.  St. Peter loved him exceedingly, St. John was loved exceedingly by Him, and St. James showed his superiority because of his ready response to drink the cup with his brother and his later actions bore out that willingness.  He was the one Herod chose to put to death because he was so earnest for Christ and grievous to the Jews.

Preparation for the Resurrection

These three were given the opportunity to see the glorification of Christ before the suffering and death of Christ.  They were being prepared to receive the Holy Spirit and share about the glories of Christ after the resurrection.  The other nine and the multitudes that followed were not permitted to see this glorification because they had not been as closely taught.  This information about the glorification of Christ might cause them to stumble when they see the suffering of the crucifixion.  I remember one of my professors telling us that God never gives us information to win trivia games.  He gave this information to these three so that they could encourage the rest of the disciples and followers after the resurrection.

Signs for Believers

The Scribes and Pharisees, a few chapters previously, had asked for a sign from heaven.  Jesus responded to them but did not give them a sign for their perverse or wicked request.  Here Jesus gives a sign from heaven without a request for the purpose of increasing the faith of the apostles.  God knows to whom to give a sign and to whom to withhold it from.

Why did Moses and Elijah appear with him?  There are a few reasons, first to show that Christ is Lord of the law and the prophets.  Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets.  Second, to show that He is the Lord of the living and the dead.  Moses died but Elijah was taken up alive into heaven.  Third, they appeared to show that Christ was definitely not one of the prophets but that he was greater.

Why Not Three Tents?

The apostle’s response through the mouth of St. Peter was to build three tabernacles or tents for them.  Christ did not respond to this request because it was not wicked but rather inappropriate, since the work of Christ was not finished yet.  He had not yet suffered and died.  It was not yet the time to rest in tents before his ministry was complete.  We read in Hebrews that he sat down after the sacrifice was made for sins.

The fathers also point out the problem with three tents and tents made from human fashioning for Christ.  We are not to seek three tents because the law and the prophets have been summarised and fulfilled in the gospel.  The law and the prophets have become part of the Gospel so there is only one tent and not three.  Furthermore, we are to seek only the Holy Trinity.  The Law and prophets are not ends in themselves, but means through which we can seek the Holy Trinity.

As St. Peter was making his suggestion, one covering, a cloud, appeared over them.  This cloud was made by the Lord and give shade to all of them.  It is kind of reminiscent of Adam and Eve making coverings and the Lord giving them better coverings.  God will make the dwelling of His Son and His people.

God’s Response

The Father speaks from heaven and clarifies who Christ is.  The disciples fall on their faces and were afraid.  The fathers tell us that this is an evidence of their sanctity or holiness, that they truly are saints, for the wicked always fall backwards but the righteous fall on their faces before God.  They fell on their faces with both fear and adoration of their God.

Notice that Jesus first touches them and then instructs them.  He first heals them and expels their fear from them and then he gives them doctrine i.e. instruction.  This I believe is the approach that we have to take in our own lives with others.  We must first give others the healing of Christ so that their particular problem is expelled from their lives and then they’ll be open to receiving the instruction of Christ.

Christ the Fulfillment

Notice also that after Christ, the Word, touched them they looked up and only saw Him.  Moses, the law, and Elijah, the prophets had become one with the Gospel through the touch of Christ.  Without Christ we see them separate and disjointed, but in Christ we see them come together as one.

Christ and the Father are One

In our Psalm reading, we see that to assault Christ is to assault the Father.  We see this unity in our Gospel passage as well.  When Christ does not answer the requests about tents, but the Father speaks and expounds that there is a difference between Christ, Moses and Elijah.

The Lord’s Laughter and Anger

The Lord sees that the kingdom of Christ will spread to all the nations therefore he laughs at them and speaks to them in anger.  His foreknowledge the fathers tell us is his laughter.  It is not necessarily what our earthly laughter is.  It is seeing the futile attempts the nations over the centuries will make against the kingdom of Christ and fail miserably.

His anger or wrath is not an emotion.  St. Augustin say that it could be understood as the darkening of the mind.  Other fathers tell us that it is calmly judging without abandoning his fatherly love.  It is not a mounting emotion against the wicked but rather a withdrawal of his grace.  Furthermore, his anger will be removed if there is repentance.

Remade into a Kingdom

He is bringing His kingship or as in our Gospel passage the glorification that was seen in the transfiguration to the nations.  In bringing them to his kingdom the passage in our English translations is that he will shatter them like a potter’s vessel.  The sense that I get from the Fathers is that this would be comparable to the potter in Jeremiah.  It is more of a smashing of the soft clay than a shattering of the finished product.  God is remaking the nations into His kingdom.  We see this take place in baptism when the old man is put off and new man is put on.


The apostles and St. Peter in particular in his epistle were eyewitnesses of the glorification of Christ.  St. John in his epistle, another one that was present on the mountain, says he declares what he has heard, seen, looked at, and touched.  The heretics, the fathers tell us, are forced to make up complicated lies because they do not have the benefit of being an eyewitness.

Christ Received Glory from the Father

When the Father proclaimed who Christ was, it does not mean that he was inferior.  The Son received glory and honour from Him in his human flesh and not his eternal divinity.  He was made for a little while lower than the angels.

Prophets are Lamps

The prophets and those who spoke in the New Testament were of the same Spirit.  They speak from their whole lives and not just their words.  Willingly and knowingly, they shared what the Lord gave to them.  They spoke of their own freewill.  The Lord did not force any of his prophets even Balaam had the power not to say anything if he did not wish to.  The actions and the words of the prophets spoke of the Lord.  Their words are a lamp to us in this world of temptation.

No Private Interpretation

Their words are also not of private interpretation.  The pagan oracles i.e. people who claimed to convey the messages of the false deities of the time spoke whatever came into their heads, but the prophets spoke and wrote the words of God and not their own words.  Therefore, we can’t interpret them privately because we would depart from the true meaning intended by the author.  As we have often heard we can easily see the result of such private interpretation all around us.  We must wait to hear how the one who wrote the words want them understood.

A point of clarification, the fathers warn us not to think of the prophets or the apostles as a mechanical instrument of the Holy Spirit in the same way as a flutist blows into his flute.  God being the flute player and the prophet the flute.  They say this is ridiculous.  God spoke it to them, and they spoke it out with understanding and different styles.  For example, St. Paul’s epistles have a different style than St. Peter’s.


Let us rejoice that our Lord was glorified and that his kingdom is spreading to the nations.  We must make use of the information revealed to us, to first draw closer to God and second to encourage our fellow believers.  Let us receive the correction of the Father willingly and see that our ideas may not necessarily be in line with his.

We must recognise that the law and the prophets find their fulfillment in Christ and that there is only one dwelling for the law, prophets, and Christ.  We must offer comfort and healing to others before we can proceed instruction.  The healing must come so that they are able to receive the instruction.  God deals gently with us and all mankind, so we are to do the same.

In the epistle reading we see that we can trust the things that are passed down to us because those who wrote were eyewitnesses of the glory of God.  We do not follow cunningly devised fables.  Finally we must seek to understand how the Church has interpreted the Scriptures and not come up with our own ideas.

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

~ Fr. Matthew

Transfiguration of Christ, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55374 [retrieved May 12, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Transfiguration_Christ_Louvre_ML145.jpg.

Homily on St. Matthew 5:13-20

St. Matthew 5:13-20; Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12); Psalm 112:1-9 (10); I Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)


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

Preparation for Lent

We are now in the fifth week of Epiphany and are quickly approaching Lent in about two weeks.  I would encourage you to read through Metropolitan’s booklet on Lent in preparation.  I would also encourage you to download his fifty-day devotional through Lent A Journey with Jesus to the Cross.  It begins on Transfiguration Sunday.

The Salt of the Earth

In the Gospel passage, Christ calls us to be the salt of the earth.  To understand what this means for us the Fathers have given brief descriptions of what salt does.  In previous centuries, before we could freeze meat it was one of the few ways that meat could be preserved for any length of time.  It is still used to some extent.

The other use, which we very much still use is to bring out flavour in the food we eat.  One of the fathers describe it as finding hidden flavour.  Cyril of Alexandria says that bread and fish aren’t even edible without salt.

Believers As a Preservative

First, we are a preservative.  As salt keeps meat from the stench of decay and being eaten by worms, so we stand in the gap against the sins idolatry and fornication preventing their stench and decay to destroy this world.  We do this first through our way of life.  Showing by our example what righteousness is and second through our prayers and intercessions for those who are caught in the evil way. We are to be what holds together this world from the onslaught of the evil one and his forces.

The Seasoning of the Apostles Teaching

The sprinkling of salt upon meat can also be compared to the teaching of the apostles.  They have taught us about heavenly things and eternity.  They have sprinkled immortality by their teaching on the bodies of all those who have listened to their teachings.  Those who have been sealed with baptism will be preserved by the teaching of the Gospel to the end.

Believers Salt for Others

Finally, we are salt not of ourselves but of the earth, of the entire world.  The whole world has fallen into evil and are in bondage and decay.  God has sent first the apostles, then the believers through the ages and finally us today to be accountable for the world.  He requires from us the character traits that are necessary and useful not for the benefit of us but for the benefit of others.  The way that we conduct ourselves is to be for the benefit of those around us and not for ourselves primarily.  We need to be sharing the love of Christ with those around us through both words and actions.

The Light of the World

Second, he tells us that we are the light of the world and a city on a hill or mountain.  He and us together have become the city that is on the hill.  He assumed our flesh so that He could achieve union with the rest of mankind.  We through our union with Him become the community of the city.  We are upheld by His lofty height so that the world can see the good works that he does through us.


Through us, he chooses to pour out the light of His knowledge on the whole world.  We are his instruments both declaring with our mouths and practising with our conduct that the good news of Christ has come to the world.  We must always remember that these two – practice and teaching – must never be separated.

The Law

The passage takes a turn as far as subject matter but is still very closely related, Christ is changing to talk about the law, but it is still very much emphasizing that teaching and action must be related.  The righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees was one of appearance and not reality.  If you go through the rest of St. Matthew five, you will see the appearance of righteousness and obedience to the law compared to actually doing the works of heavenly righteousness and the merits of faith.

By the words not the smallest letter or part of a letter, the Fathers understand this as speaking figuratively that even the smallest things in the law point to the future of the heavenly kingdom.

The Fulfillment

We must be very careful to understand that in the “You have heard…but I say to you” we do not think that the law is being abolished.  He is rather enhancing it so that it can be perfectly fulfilled.  We are now to teach and live the law of God through love.  He is showing us practical ways to fulfill the law.

Fasting Condemned?

In our 1st testament reading we see what the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees looks like.  To warn them of their plight, God instructs those at that time, through his prophet Isaiah, to lift up their voice like a trumpet.  We also need to warn those who are confident in their self-righteousness.  Our voice like a trumpet is not to be melodious but rather the sound of an alarm.  Its very noise is to be a warning.

What exactly were they doing wrong?  They were fasting which is usually commendable.  However, it is of no use to endure an empty stomach (and by the fourth or fifth week of Lent it is definitely endurance) but not turn away from things that are displeasing to the Lord.

Wrong Reasons for Fasting

They were fasting to fulfill their own evil intentions.  Saint Ephrem the Syrian explains an example of this would be to fast so that misfortunes would come upon your enemies.  One of the fathers also point out that they were turning fasting on its head.  They were fasting so that God would draw near to them rather than in repentance drawing near to him.  They wanted his blessing and protection without changing their hearts and lives.

A Proper Fast

What are we to do then when we are fasting?  We are to seek to draw closer to God and to repent.  We are to seek to draw closer to God and repent, turning away from the passions and vices that have a grip on our lives. After that, we give to the poor.  The Fathers tell us that in every poor man that hungers, Christ is hungering in them.  Therefore, when we give food to the hungry, we are feeding Christ.  We give a coin to a poor man and we receive the kingdom of heaven.

St. Jerome also shows us a spiritual application.  If we see people freezing outside the church in cold unbelief, we are to lead them into the church where they can be clothed with incorruption.  They can be wrapped in the mantle of Christ so that they will not remain in the grave.

Some of us physically cannot fast and some of us spiritually should not.  The fathers very seriously warn that if fasting brings out anger and irritation against one another so that instead putting aside the passions they are rather increased.  It would be better to eat moderately with thanksgiving.  Therefore, let each one of us, who are physically able, seek the Lord for the strength to overcome the passions through fasting, rather than being overcome further into them by hunger.

Light and Good Works

In verse eight we see something very reminiscent of our gospel passage.  When we do these good works, light will break forth and we can be sure that the works of God will follow.  We are the avenue that he has chosen to use to reach the world.  We are his vessels.

The Righteous are Generous

In the second part of the Psalm reading we see again this instruction towards giving.  It is a characteristic of the righteous that they are generous to the poor.  St. Clement of Alexandria tells us that it isn’t when we possess and keep our riches that we are wealthy, but when we give it away.  Generosity comes from the soul and so true riches are found in the soul.  Riches are not for us to keep.  If we don’t have them, we must not seek them by suspect or evil means or dishonest schemes.  However, if we do have them, let us pass them on to heaven through our good works.

St. Paul’s Example

As we look at our epistle reading, we see that St. Paul is one who obeys and teaches the commandments of God and his Gospel.  He preaches the mystery or the testimony of God which is God the Son who had been hidden for all ages but has now been revealed in the incarnation.

This preaching of Christ has come with a cost though and he provoked hatred and persecution against himself through that.  In II Corinthians we see a partial list of what he suffered during his lifetime and in the book Tried by Fire we read that he paid the ultimate price with a martyr’s crown.

Fearful Just Like Us

What he says about this, here in this passage is very encouraging.  He came in weakness, fear, and much trembling.  I somehow just think he went from place to preaching the Gospel and think that persecution to him was like water rolling off a duck’s back.  No, he was completely human.  He was scared and had fear.

St. John Chrysostom says, this credits his determination or maybe more in our language, he was sure of his calling.  He had this fear, but he did nothing wrong because of it, but he just kept on in the way that God had called him despite being afraid of death and beatings.  Continuing to preach and as I just mentioned he ultimately laid down his life for the calling which God had laid upon him.

Faith and Grace

He speaks wisdom to the mature.  Who are the mature?  They are those who know that actions are louder than words.  Our faith does not rest upon mere words, but on the living out of the teaching of Christ.  We receive the ability to live out this teaching through the grace that is given to us.  Grace is received through the sacraments.  We receive it through the Eucharist.  Grace is the Holy Spirit enabling us to live the life entrusted to us.

The wisdom of God is hidden because it can not be revealed through words but through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is through the Holy Spirit that we can understand the depths of God.  Our soul is clueless without the strengthening of the Holy Spirit to know God.


  1. Let us purpose to be the salt of the earth by being the righteousness of God against the onslaught of evil in this world.  The evil one and his forces are doing their best to keep the world in idolatry and evil, but we are to bring the love of God to those in bondage.  We are to do this both through our words and actions.  We remember the words of St. James that faith without works is dead.  It means nothing if we don’t act our love and concern for others.
  2. Second, let us lay a hold of the teaching of the apostles and thus be preserved to the end.  We can do this, first by familiarising ourselves with the epistles of the 2nd Testament.  Second, take time to read what the Fathers say on different passages of the Scriptures.  This can be done through reading the writings of the Church Fathers.
  3. Third, as we begin to add disciplines to our lives, let us make sure that we aren’t missing God in them.  Isaiah 58 speaks specifically of fasting but think of meditation, prayer and other disciplines.  I think in Divine Energy Fr. Jon Braun says that at times it is better not to pray.  The question we must ask ourselves is, are we seeking God through the disciplines or we are seeking to do these things just to receive his favour and blessing?
  4. Fourth, we must be caring for the poor.  There are ways of doing this locally through the food banks, people who ask us directly for assistance and other various charities.  We can sponsor a Bridge of Hope child, donate to slum ministry, I think Christian Aid Ministry helps the poor in other nations as well, World Vision etc.  The opportunities to help the poor are almost endless and I think that we are pretty much without excuse if we don’t find a way to help them.
  5. Fifth, like St. Paul, let us persist in the way that God has called us.  We find the tasks to fulfill our calling overwhelming, but we must choose to follow God.  We may face persecution and may have fear but through the strength of Christ we must choose to persist in the way that he has called us.

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

~ Fr. Matthew

Light for Others, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55830 [retrieved May 5, 2020]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/5421034602.

Homily on St. Matthew 4:12-23

St. Matthew 4:12-23; Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Barekmor! Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen!

The Arrest of St. John the Forerunner

Here we have the account of the start of our Saviour’s earthly ministry.  St John the Forerunner has been arrested and the last of the Law has been completed with Christ’s baptism.  In His baptism He fulfilled all righteousness.  He was the  1st human to do so.  Remember, the law was not given to save but to discipline, shape their character, and make them humble.

Here persecution has begun again, just as all the prophets have been persecuted.  We, as humans, don’t want to hear that righteousness is required.

Christ Begins His Ministry

Our Lord picks up the very same call as St. John the Forerunner, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.  The first words of the New Covenant are to put off the flesh and look to spiritual things.  It is not just a matter of  stopping to sin, but rather a turning away from earthly things as well.  Wealth, power and even family should have no attraction for we know we will receive 100 fold more in the age to come – St Mark 10:30

“shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”

John Had Borne Witness of Him

St John bore witness of Jesus saying, “This is the Lamb of God”.  The voice from Heaven also bore witness.  Jesus didn’t start any ministry until John’s was completed.  There was no competition and  no confusion, it was simply a continuance of the ministry.  Furthermore, Jesus did not bare witness of Himself, which they accused Him of in any case – St John 8:13.  Right after forgiving the women caught in adultery, He spoke again to the people. Saying He was the light of the world.

13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

Christ Goes First to Gentiles

The Lord goes to the land of the Gentiles which is across the Jordan.  Those who were the first to see the “Great Light” were not the Jews.  Salvation comes by the Jews, but as we know, they refused.  We see here it was a battle from the very beginning.

Furthermore, we know that these two (Zebulun and Naphtali) were the first to go into captivity.  So it is fitting that they are the first to receive the Good News.  Quite a bit is written about both Zebulun and Naphtali.  One of the Father’s says,

“This was the light about which the just man Simeon in the Gospel declared, “A light of revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel.”1

Avoid Troubles if Possible

Just as in the prophets; David, Isaiah, Daniel, the Lord withdrew because He knows the hearts of men and all situations.  He is in complete control of all circumstances and He was choosing the time of His suffering.  Furthermore, He taught us here, that we are not to seek out troubles, but be wise in all things.

He could have easily rearranged the days, but He did not for our sakes.  For when His time would come, He did not shrink back.  Here we learn to stand and to turn away as needed for the sake of the Kingdom, not for the sake of our own safety.

The Calling of the Apostles


Verses 20 & 22 … Let’s understand a bit more about this …

20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

The very first thing He does is to call the Apostles, they must be witnesses of all that He intends to do.  Well, they weren’t Apostles yet, but He knew that they would be.

Leave Everything

They left everything, although they did not have huge fortunes, but it was all they had hopes for in this life.  Poor fisherman don’t have much, but they turned away from everything they did have.  We also will leave everything behind, if we follow our Lord.  This is what every Christian is called to, not just missionaries & clergy.

Whatever we try to hold on to will become a snare and hindrance.  We mustn’t covet what we give up, nor what others have, that’s their own problem.  Partaking of true abandonment is what our Saviour calls us to.  How much we give up isn’t the issue, the Lord is looking at the heart.  We remember the judgement on Ananias…how much we hold back becomes our trouble.Upon being called by Jesus, the disciples left their nets immediately.

For Christ seeks this kind of obedience from us, such that we delay not even for a moment, though something absolutely most necessary should fervently press in on us.

~ St. John Chrysostom2

Leave Immediately

Both times it says, “Immediately”…they didn’t have to weigh the possibilities or the cost of leaving all behind.  There was no questions from them about where, or what they were going to do.  Nothing about, but I wonder what my dad thinks because he was right there with them.  This is a pattern throughout the Church and the Bible; Abraham, Moses, Elisha and so on and so forth.

We have a similar call as we follow.  Once the decision is made to obey, then it gets tough.  We find out the decision was the easy part.  Every morning and night through living by the grace of God is how we make it.  Through actively thanking God for grace for the day and trusting Him with our life through the night

Threefold process of Following Christ

In the lesson today we learn a three-fold process of intentionally following our Saviour through acts of abandonment of our own will, or ways.

  1. Earthly acts – things we do, often can be the most damaging and easy to give up
  2. Earthly goods – things we have, they can consume our desire to obey
  3. Earthly parents – joining the family of God can often cost us earthly relationships

Chosen For His Glory

Another of the Fathers says,

“He chose illiterate, unskilled and untutored fishermen, that God’s grace might be all the more apparent.”

Just like you and I. None of us can claim anything of ourselves.  He picked us out of the myriads of smarter more capable people.  Therefore, whatever happens will be a glory to him.

St John 15:8 “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit”

To Bear Fruit

What fruit? – here’s a few, there are many more…

The peaceable fruit of righteousness – Heb 12:11

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

This is through the discipline of God, He is  refining our earthly lives by His hand to remove all ties to it.

Fruit of the Spirit – Gal 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, longsuffering, gentleness, faithfulness, 23 meekness temperance: against such there is no law.

Receive God’s Grace

None of these things will be ours, without systematically removing the things of the world from our lives.  As we journey into a fuller life and understanding of the Faith, let’s avail ourselves of as much of God’s grace as we can.

Eph 4:7 & similar in Rom 12:3

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ”

What is grace?  It is the ability from God to do what He has asked.  It is the mystery available that is the life of God in you through receiving His supernatural power.

Ways to Receive Grace

Here are three ways of receiving grace among many others.

  1. Grace is given in the Eucharist, partake as often as possible
  2. Grace is given in Confession, be ruthless with yourself and be humble, God will lift you up.
  3. Grace is given in meeting together, we both learn and challenge each other when we live as the Body of Christ.

We experience the life of God or Theosis, by reducing our earthly connections and increasingly relying on the grace of God.  The more we rely on Him, the more He makes us able.

Final Application

So, I’m not asking you to make a list of items to remove from your life, but rather to do all you can to receive the grace of God.  I am saying, that when the opportunity comes to choose the narrow path, you should take it, even though the cost will be high. Those of this world will not approve and will likely cause you trouble.

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We must not choose personal comfort over our eternal unity with Christ.  Only you know where the Holy Spirit is highlighting the next steps for you.  Please, don’t delay, the blessing that comes from obedience, far out weighs the common things of this world.

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

~ Fr. Pat

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

2 Ibid, ?

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.

Homily on St. Matthew 3:13-17

St. Matthew 3:13-17; Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43


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

Christ’s Baptism


As we have begun journeying through the life of Christ this year, we have come to His baptism.  Our Orthodox brothers and sisters have celebrated this on the sixth of January.  As we look at this event this morning, a crucial question to ask is why was He baptised?

Two Types of Baptism

The baptism of John was one of repentance and the baptism we practise is one of regeneration.  For both of these purposes, Jesus was not in need of baptism.  He was a complete man.  In His incarnation, the body that He assumed had fulfilled every sacrament of our salvation.  He had committed no sin therefore a baptism repentance would be needless.

Reason’s for Christ’s Baptism

There are three reasons that the Fathers give to us for our Saviour choosing to be baptised.  First, to completely fulfill both the law and the instructions of the prophets.  Jesus had fulfilled everything and now there was just one last instruction to fulfill.  John the Baptist had come as the final prophet instructing the people to repentance and baptism.  Jesus is the complete man is the one who would fulfill all the prophecies and instructions concluding with John the Baptist’s ministry.  He completed all the demands of the old covenant in the baptism.

Second, He was baptised to give credence to the ministry and baptism of John.  Through His being baptised by John the Baptist, He was placing divine approval upon John’s ministry.

Third, He was baptised for us.  John the Baptist’s baptism was merely one of repentance while the baptism that we practise in the church today and the one that the Apostles practised was one of regeneration.  What made the difference?

A New Baptism

When Christ entered the waters as the sinless one, as the one who had fulfilled all the demands of the old covenant, He hallowed or sanctified the waters of His baptism.  Today, when the church baptises a new believer, we understand that in a mystery that the baptismal water becomes the water in which Christ was baptised.  In much the same way as bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ for us in the Eucharist.  It is something beyond our comprehension, but we know that it happens.

The water becomes the water of Christ’s baptism, but what difference does that make?  Without the sanctifying presence of Christ in the baptismal water, baptism can accomplish nothing.  It is water.  Water can’t wash away sins or raise us up to newness of life.  We must have the hallowing, the sanctifying presence of the Lord in the waters.

This fulfills all righteousness as Jesus said to John all those years ago.  He not only completed all that was needed for a single man to be righteous, Him, but He also opened the way that all men could become righteous through Him.  He fulfilled all righteousness for us.

A New Life After Baptism

Verse sixteen of St. Matthew 3 states that Jesus came up immediately from the water.  In a spiritual sense this teaches us how we are to live after our own baptism.  We are to immediately come up from the water and advance in virtue, then we are to put to death the deeds of the flesh and seek to live according to the Spirit.  Having been washed from our sin and raised to new life in the Spirit, we are now to continue to walk in this manner of life.  We went down into the water as carnal children of Adam, but  we come out of the water transformed into the spiritual children of God.  Let us praise God for this wonderful mystery of transformation.

The Holy Spirit Fills us

The dove descends upon Christ after His baptism prefiguring to us that the Holy Spirit will descend upon us after we are raised to new life through baptism.  We become God’s children through adoption, and we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.  In the actual event we see the Trinity.  The Lord is baptised, the Spirit descends, and the Father speaks giving testimony of His Son.

God Desires Salvation For All

Let us now take a look at our first testament reading.  We see that the servant of God, who is God the Son, desires to bring justice to the nations.  He desires to save all people.  We have been born anew through the Holy Spirit regenerating us and God desires this for all people.  This is why he came to us and united himself to our flesh.

The fathers tell us that Christ not only did not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smouldering wick, but he also bound up and healed the bruised and broken.  He healed the sick and did not bruise the repentant.  Even those who were content to remain in their wickedness, he allowed them to follow their own choice.  As long as they are in this world, he withholds judgement from them.  They will not receive judgement until the Great Judgement on the last day.  Until then our Lord treats them with compassion and allows them their choice.  We must follow our Lord in showing compassion.

He Brings Restoration

He has given sight to the blind.  While he did physically give sight to many blind men during his lifetime, Christ has also restored spiritual sight.  All of us with whom he has treated gently and have turned to Him have had our sight restored.  He has broken the bonds of sin that have held us and led us to the light of truth.

We are to Share His Salvation

Just as he has led us out of darkness into light, out of bondage into freedom, in our Psalm reading He has commissioned us to share this wonderful news.  We are the means through which the whole world can give to the Lord glory.  It is through the Gospel being spread to the ends of the earth that they can give him glory.

Christ’s Baptism Prophesied

In verse three we see a prophecy of our Lord’s baptism.  The voice of the Lord is over the waters.  God’s voice was heard from heaven over the waters of our Saviour’s baptism.

Waters also figuratively speaks of the nations.  we have seen that the waters of Christ’s baptism are also the waters of our own baptism.  He speaks over the nations that have and will be baptised in those waters so that they will be made complete in virtue and the greatness of Christ.

The Church Prophesied

Furthermore, it is a prophecy of the first apostles and all those who have carried the message of Christ to the ends of the earth.   The voice speaks figuratively of the Holy Spirit and the grace that fell at Pentecost giving those first apostles the power and the might to lead many to Christ.  They have passed that grace onto many succeeding generations through the laying on of hands.

We see also the creation of the Church in verse eight.  The desert or wilderness of Kadesh was shaken.  The desert or the church originally had no children and was barren, but through the preaching of Christ it was shaken and gave birth and in a single day an entire nation was born.  It was an empty wilderness and now the deer dance in it by his voice.  The church rushes throughout the world unmindful of the opposition and persecution proclaiming the Gospel of Christ so that all in His Temple can say, “Glory”.

Salvation is for All

Finally, as we look at our epistle reading we see that salvation is for all or in the words of St. Peter, “I see that God shows no partiality”.  God is no respecter of persons, whether the person is a Jew or a Gentile like us, he is looking to see if that person is doing what pleases him.  He will show more concern and care for the one who has chosen the way of virtue at a time when many are determined to do evil.

Cornelius up to this time had been seeking to worship God as best he knew.  He did not have the revelation that Jesus Christ was the same God as the God of the Old Testament.  St. Peter was sent to instruct him that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

God had anointed Jesus with grace.  In our baptism we remember that both God anointed Jesus with grace and that we are anointed with oil signifying that we receive His grace as well.


Let us praise our Lord and Saviour that he has fulfilled all righteousness and made the way for us to be holy as well.  We have been raised to new life, let us seek the things above.  Let us endeavour to acquire all the virtues of the Christian life – love, joy, peace etc.

We must also have the compassion our Saviour has for all men.  If we do not desire that all men to be saved, let us take some time to pray this week that God would change our hearts.  Let us seek to as full of compassion as our blessed Saviour.  God has commissioned us to spread his gospel to the ends of the earth.  We can do that as a Church by sponsoring the church missionary.  On our own we can commit to praying for the work of missionaries and Christian workers throughout the world.  We can share with our friends and neighbours who do not know Christ.  We can give to the cause of spreading his name abroad.

Finally, we have received grace through baptism to live Godly.  In a few moments we will also receive grace through the Eucharist.  Let us partake and receive from the Lord the grace to pursue Him with all of our hearts.

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

~ Fr. Matthew


Xačʿatur. Baptism of Christ, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56383 [retrieved April 17, 2020]. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/medmss/8614784984.

Homily on St. Matthew 2:13-23

St. Matthew 2:13-23; Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18


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


The Gospel reading above takes a look at what happens with Christ’s family after the visit of the Magi.  The church around the world celebrates their visit each year on January 6th.  Our lectionary for today is focusing upon the Kindness of the Lord and in this passage our focus is that the Kindness of the Lord Saves.

Why Egypt?

Christ Flees to Egypt

To Proclaim Salvation

St. John Chrysostom asks the question, “[W]hy was the Christ Child sent into Egypt?1  If we were to do some Bible survey, one of things that we would discover is that Egypt where Christ went and Babylon from where the Magi came from and returned are often symbolic of the world.  Christ, the hope of salvation, was born in Israel proclaiming salvation to that land.  His flight into Egypt and the Magi’s return to Babylon was the proclamation of salvation to the world.

God wanted humanity to expect his bounteous gifts the world over.  So he called from Babylon the wise men and sent to Egypt the holy family.

To Fulfill Prophecy

Second, he fled to Egypt to fulfill God’s promise to Egypt.

Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence,

Our Lord went down into Egypt to put to flight the demons and idols that had held that nation in captivity for generations.  The primary reason for fleeing Bethlehem was not to escape the death being inflicted by King Herod, it was that too, but in his kindness to bring salvation to the nation of Egypt.

God’s kindness to Egypt in this was amazing.  Egypt had the stain of being the one who had abused and mistreated Israel in the time of Moses.  They now became the refuge of the Christ child the hope of our salvation and his family.

To be our High Priest and Sacrifice

Third, he fled for us, not for himself.  It was necessary that Jesus escape death as a child, so that he could serve as a steward of the sacraments at the proper time.  He had to grow up, so that he could as our high priest present himself as our sacrifice.  So that he could demonstrate to us and the world what a life of faith looks like, He needed to grow up.  He fled so that he could identify with our weakness of fleeing under persecution and give us the faith to endure such circumstances.  It is better to flee at sometimes than to deny the faith.  We remember that St. Peter refused to flee and ended up denying our Lord.

To be an Example for us

Fourth, the flight into Egypt tells us that if we are suffering persecutions and tribulations we shouldn’t expect to be crowned promptly for our troubles.  By our Lord’s example, we learn that a life of a fugitive is consistent with the ordering of spiritual things.  Following Christ is not a glamorous occupation in this life.

However, we get to share in the same kind of labour as the Blessed Virgin Mary did as well as the Magi.  They were both willing to retire in the humiliating role of fugitives.  The last few years have really highlighted awfulness of being a fugitive, whether it is the Rohingya people in Asia, or the Syrians and Africans fleeing to Europe.  A fugitive is someone without a country who no nation seems to want.  If we follow Christ faithfully this could be our lot as well, but we know our Saviour and many saints have walked this path before us and will strengthen us in the day of trial.

Did Christ Abandon Bethlehem?

In this flight, Christ brought and announced salvation to Egypt and Babylon, but what of those who were left behind in Bethlehem?  Church tradition tells us that both Zechariah and Elizabeth both died protecting his cousin John as well as the numerous infants who were killed by the orders of King Herod.  Did Christ just abandon them to their fate?  St. Peter Chrysologus explains (he refers to the infants as soldiers),

Brothers, Christ did not despise his own soldiers but promoted them and granted that they might walk in victory before they lived.  He enabled them to participate in a victory without a struggle.  He gave to them the gift of the crown even before there bodies had grown.  It was Christ’s will that they pass over vice for virtue, attain heaven before earth and share in the divine life immediately.  Thus it was that Christ sent his soldiers ahead.  He did not abandon them.  He gathered up his ranks.  He did not leave them behind.2

He brought these infants home and preserved the life of John the Baptist his forerunner.  Today, we have an equally horrific slaughter of innocents.  There have been countless babies slain through abortion.  Yet, in the midst of the tragedy, we can rejoice that Christ has gathered each one of them to himself and given them a victory without struggle.  He will not leave them behind.

The First Martyrs

The infants slain in Bethlehem and the surrounding area also have the honour of being the first martyrs for Christ for they died on his behalf and have received the praise of martyrs.  They are remembered every year in the church on December 28th.  They were the first to be found worthy to die on Christ’s behalf, but they are not the last.  Their witness is sealed in their blood as countless other martyrs of the Church have been.

Praise God for the Good Things that He has done

As we look at the 1st testament reading our theme is to praise him for the good things that He has done.  He carries us from the house of slavery and makes us his children.  Let us praise His name.

In our psalm reading our theme is to thank God for his kindness.  We see that we, angels, all creation and everything are to praise the Lord.  We are to praise him for his deeds.  The fathers tell us that what God actually is, not even the angels have declared.  If we ask them, we will not receive any response except to glorify God.  God has done great things and we and all creation must praise him for His mighty acts.

The Incarnation

Because of His Kindness

Finally, in our epistle, we learn that Jesus shared our humanity in kindness.  We know of course that in the beginning, He created the world in kindness.  Now, however, in our salvation, He shows an even greater loving-kindness in taking our flesh and suffering for us.

St. Paul shows both our similarity with Christ, by saying that He is bringing many children to glory.  Christ has identified and has become one with us and our disparity with Christ.  He is the pioneer, the author of our salvation.  He can do what we could not.  In His great kindness, He can and has brought salvation to the world.  He is greater than us because He is the one who consecrates as God and yet in His humanity, He has the same origin as us.  He shares in our flesh.  One of the fathers tells us that if He did not share in our flesh then He wouldn’t have needed to flee into Egypt.  It would have been impossible for Him to be crucified without flesh.

A Weapon

Christ took on our flesh and used it as a weapon against the evil one.  The flesh that was defeated by Satan in Adam now conquers and destroys his power over death.  The evil one is forced to relinquish his hold upon all those who he formerly held power over.  Through the death of Christ destroying death all flesh now has the opportunity to rise from the dead.  Death no longer has power over us.

Remains Divine

In taking on our flesh, he did not cease from his divine status.  He continued to be what He was, even though he now had flesh.  This has been the orthodox teaching of the church from the beginning.  He is fully God and He is fully man.  Therefore, we call his mother the Blessed Virgin Mary the Theotokos (the God bearer) and the Mother of God not because his deity began in her womb, but because his humanity did.  He has always been God, but he joined His divinity to humanity at a specific point in history.  The virgin Mary became His mother and we call her blessed because she was chosen for such an honour.

To be Both Priest and Sacrifice

In order to be both our Priest and also the victim the sacrifice, He had to have our flesh.  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek he offered up himself.  He took away our fear of death and now we view it merely as a transition to the superior life and accept it joyously from those who persecute us for the sake of Christ.

To Identify With us

Taking on flesh not only permits him to destroy death, but it also makes him able to identify with our temptations and trials.  He became as human as each one of us here are today.  Every possible temptation, he also was tempted with and yet he never conceded to the temptation.  In taking on flesh, He is able to identify with each one of us in our own particular weaknesses.

From the beginning of Creation when Adam fled from him in the garden to our present day, when we fall from temptation and flee from Him, He is there in kindness and love pursuing us.  In His great love He rescues us and undoes the sin in our lives and makes us holy as he is holy.  Let us praise His name forever.


We ought to praise the Lord that his salvation has been proclaimed in all the world that both Jew and Gentile have been rescued from the power of death.  Let us praise the Lord that Christ’s life was preserved until the proper time that all could be fulfilled, and our salvation assured.

We must find hope in our persecutions that others have walked in the way of loneliness and humiliation of being a fugitive for the sake of Christ before us.  We must ask for discernment to know whether we should flee persecution that we deny not the Lord or if we should remain and become a martyr for His sake.

Let us also pray that the horror of abortion be removed from our nation and the world, and yet at the same time rejoice that God has brought these little ones to His side.  Finally, we must praise the Lord for the salvation that He has given to us.

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), ?

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

Giorgione, 1477-1511. Adoration 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=47443 [retrieved April 14, 2020]. Original source: www.yorckproject.de.

Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528. Flight into Egypt, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46322 [retrieved April 14, 2020]. Original source: http://www.yorckproject.de.

Bruegel, Pieter, ca. 1525-1569. Massacre of the Innocents, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54234 [retrieved April 14, 2020]. Original source: Wikimedia Commons.

Homily on St. John 1:1-14

St. John 1:1-14; Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)


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

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Our theme in the lectionary is The Greatest Gift of God.  In our Gospel portion we will focusing on the fact that the Son of God came to make us the sons and daughters of God.

The Person of God the Son

God the Son

He is Eternal

One of the main themes of Christmas is that God was born of humanity, of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  However, in this passage, we see another truth being emphasised as well.  God the Son was God from before the beginning, from before time began.  He is eternal, just as His Father is.

He is Equal with the Father

Everything that the Father of the Son, the Word, the Logos (the Fathers use many terms to refer to Him) is, the Son must also be.  He is the begotten Son of the Father and is in all things equal to Him.  He is, as we have declared in the Creed, in our services God of God, light of light, wisdom of wisdom, essence of essence.

The Father begat the Word equal to himself in all things as though uttering forth himself.

~ St. Augustin1

He is Eternally God the Son

We see in this opening verse that not only was the Word from the beginning but that He was person in relationship with the Father from the beginning.  “The Word was with God.”  He was eternally the second person of the Godhead.  This further tells us that their indivisible unity of the Godhead has existed from eternal past.  There has always been a unity of the Father and of the Son.

He is the Creator

All things created came into being through him, therefore, we know that He wasn’t created but is the creator and has always existed.  He is the source and creator of life.  This statement about the life that he creates is not merely saying that He has created, but He is the one who sustains that created things might continue to live.

The Mission of God the Son

Christ brings life and light to our world, to our darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.  This means that the powers of evil, although they tried their best to overcome him failed miserably.  As a result, now as we put away the unfruitful deeds of darkness, we are permitted to draw near to the Light.  As we draw near, we are able to become that perfect light as well – the children of light.

Our Response

We are not forced to receive this light.  Look at the end of the passage, he gives us the power to become the children of God.  He doesn’t just magically whether we are willing or not make us his children.  He leaves the choice with us.

How do we make this choice to become his children?  We choose to leave evil.  God’s part is to give us grace to turn from wickedness to the righteous and holy way of life.  We must supply the faith.  It is our choice whether we exercise it.  God has given us the ability, but we must not frustrate his gifts.

This is not a one-time act but a continual lifelong practise of choosing the good and leaving the evil.  It is a lifelong practise of repentance and prayer.  It is saying, yes, I will pursue the characteristics of God otherwise known as the virtues.  I will endeavour to add to my life, humility, love, joy, patience and so on and so forth and I will remove from my life anger, bitterness, lust, envy etc.  We add and remove both by the grace that God has given us.  He has given us the power and we must act upon that power.

The World Rejected Him

Christ came into our world for no other reason than our salvation.  He was, as the Fathers phrase it, recapitulating the creation back to Himself.  He had created the world for His pleasure, and we had rejected Him.  The world did not know Him.

Who is the world that he is speaking of?  These are those whose only concern is the world and the things that are in it.  Whose whole focus and worry are for this present world.  We get our name from the things that we love.  We are children of God, because we love God, so also those who love the world are called world because they have taken on its nature and characteristics.

His Own Rejected Him

It is not only the world, but also His own who did not know Him.  Who are His own?  This is His people the ancient nation of Israel.  He has stated somewhere that Israel is His firstborn, but when Christ was not received, he transfers His grace to us the Gentiles.  We see this in the ministry of Saint Paul.  He went first to the synagogue, but when they refused the message, he then brought it to the Gentiles.

Having received this grace, we are lifted up through Him to share in His immortality since he partook of our mortality for this purpose.  He clothes our soul with Himself so that we might be worthy and perfect and through baptism be made into His sons and daughters.

Salvation Comes to Zion

As we have just mentioned, the Gentiles are included in this salvation which brings us to the theme of our 1st Testament reading – The Good News of Salvation is for the Whole World.

Salvation is brought to Zion.  Zion can be representative of three things the Fathers tell us.  First it speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem, our future home.  It is announcing Salvation to all those who will be there, past and present.  The good news was preached to those who had died in hope and also to the living.  The Fathers point out that John the Baptist was even the forerunner of Christ in this, for he died shortly before Christ and announced his imminent coming.

Second, Zion may refer to the Church established by Christ.  Finally, it refers to the souls of every holy and godly person.  Those who have their citizenship in heaven.  Those who have the heavenly vision and can see the things that are beyond this world.

Salvation Spreads to the Whole World

This good news was preached in all the known ancient world very rapidly and one of the Fathers declares of this rapid spread of the gospel how could it not be called anything but beautiful that its salvation is known throughout the whole world.

The God of the universe bares his arm that is he has shown his power and he will show his power to all nations by bringing them into this common salvation.

Salvation for All

As we look at our Psalm reading, we can praise the Lord with the writer for the Lord’s faithfulness.  He has won the victory and now he remembers his mercy and faithfulness.  Our God not only destroys our enemies, but He also brings salvation to us.  This is a benefit for both Israel and the nations.  Salvation has come to all.

The Son the Revelation of the Father

In our Epistle reading we learn that the Son is the complete revelation of God.  Christ is called Wisdom by all the prophets.  We read in Proverbs that Wisdom was there at the beginning of the creation. He has many and various ways instructed the prophets all throughout the 1st Testament.  Since He is the one true teacher, we are instructed to call no man teacher, because all teach through Him.

He Speaks Through Himself

We have a greater privilege than those of time past because God no longer speaks through others.  He speaks through himself.  The God proclaimed by the prophets is the same God who speaks to us in the 2nd Testament.  He is the one who is celebrated and glorified in the Trinity.  He is the one who has come to fulfill the law and not to abolish it.

This is very important.  This attack upon the unity of the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament has been around since the 2nd century when Marcion brought it forward and was refuted by Tertullian, to our present day.

St. Anthony said we shouldn’t be surprised or astonished if someone famous writes to us because after all they are just men.  However, let us wonder and be filled with amazement because God has both written the law for us to read and has spoken to us through His Son.  God, the creator of the universe, speaks to us.  What a wonder this is!

We See the Father Through the Son

We know the greatness and the majesty of the Father which is invisible through the power of the Son.  It is through seeing the Son that we can believe that the Father is just as great.  God has stooped to our weakness so that a spiritual reality can be seen in the wonder and mystery of the Incarnation.  We know God the Father because God the son dwelt among us.

The Same Essence and Nature

There are two phrases that St. Paul uses to capture who Christ is.  First, he is the radiance of his glory and second he is the exact image of his nature.  These two phrases coupled together tell us amazing Truth.

The first phrase tells us that Christ is of the same essence as the Father.  Glory is often used as shorthand for the divine nature.  Radiance implies a lesser nature than the source of its radiance.  For e.g. the Sun is greater than the radiance of sunlight.  They are however the same essence.  Therefore, we have the second phrase.  He is the exact image of His nature.  Having both the radiance i.e. the essence of God and the nature of God, He is God of God, Light of Light.  They are unity in Trinity.


The Son is the same essence and nature of God, so why the incarnation?  He took on our flesh because it was necessary to purify our sins.  Our Saviour who was God and was of God needed to become of us to bring us into union with Him.  The whole reason why we celebrate Christmas morning and every year in this season is because God took on our nature to bring us into reconciliation with Him.


Today, as you read this, praise the Lord that he took on our nature to reconcile ourselves to Him.  As He has given us the power to become his children, let us receive that grace and work on overcoming the passions of pride, anger, envy etc. and equip ourselves with the virtues of humility, love, gentleness etc.  Let us praise God for His wonderful plan and rejoice that our Saviour has indeed come.

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), 9

Homily on St. Matthew 11:2-11

St. Matthew 11:2-11; Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10; James 5:7-10

St. John the forerunner hope


Glory be to the Father, and to the son and to the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Prophecy Fulfilled

Isaiah 35:1-10  – this prophesy was fulfilled in Christ…The hot sand and deserted desolate places, will blossom and flourish…a deserted place called Bethsaida – means “house of fruitfulness.”  The northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee is a fertile plain where the feeding of the 5,000 likely took place.  Peter, Andrew and Philip were from there – ¼ of the Apostles

Eusebius (260/263–340). Bishop of Cæsarea, the first historian of the Christian church explains

“And the prophecy here disguises under the name of “desert”, the church of the Gentiles, which for long years, deserted of God, is being evangelized by those of whom we are speaking, and it says that besides other blessings, the glory of Lebanon will be given to the desert. Now it is customary to call Jerusalem, Lebanon, allegorically… This prophecy before us, therefore, teaches that by God’s presence with men, the glory of Lebanon, will be given to that which is called “desert,” that is to say, the church of the Gentiles.”1

Christ Fulfills the Prophecies

Concerning all these healings and renewal, there are more than ½ a dozen of the Fathers who say, Christ’s miracles were the literal fulfillment of prophecy.  Judah was even more awestruck by this grace of the Gentiles’ new conversion, a grace that it believed pertained only to itself and to those who were received in its rite through the mystery of circumcision, as the Acts of the Apostles made abundantly clear.

Hope Enables Endurance

Hope enables us to endure until we are delivered

~ St. Augustin2

Suicide Takes the Hopeless

Hopeless people can’t survive.  An average of 10 people die by suicide each day in Canada, or approx. 4000 deaths by suicide each year.  It is the 9th leading cause of death in Canada and the 2nd leading cause of death for Ages 10-29.  This is the tragedy of youth who give up!  “There is hope” – that is the tagline for suicide prevention.  There is hope… We Have hope – we look forward – both for the Advent or arrival of our Saviour, but also for us. – it will be better, later.3

35:9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
35:10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Hope for the Future

The other life brings the absence of all pain and sorrow – we have hope in the future, not in this life.  We are to live as a people with a future, having a destination that is not this world.

In the Psalm we also have reason to hope for our souls in the future…We should never doubt that the Holy Trinity, the only true God, is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible— as we read today.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:

Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is:

As long as there is life, there is no cause to give up on salvation for life is open to all, until their last breath.  These promises and truths give us hope – both for now and also the next life.

Our Hope is in God

St John Cassian … late 4th century, his writings are on the nature of the spiritual life which were highly influential in the development of Western monasticism, says,

“For it is not free will but the Lord who “looses those who are bound.”

It is not our strength, but the Lord who “raises those who have fallen.”

It is not our diligence in reading, but “the Lord who enlightens the blind”

It is not our care, but “the Lord who cares for the stranger.”

It is not our courage, but “the Lord who assists (or supports) all those who are down.”4

We hope in God!

Remember and Be Diligent

Be patient then, St James 5:7-10, His coming is near and Prepare, be looking to the prophets – those who’ve gone before.  We must follow their lives as examples.  Our Icons are a snapshot of our hope and destiny.  There are records of their lives…Reading their own words can go a long way to strengthening your stamina.  In the library there are countless works of and about the saints who’ve gone before.

Here you have the cousin of our Lord, St James, the first leader of the Church – who wrote the first liturgy of the Church saying,

Now is no time to be slacking off.  Look up – your redemption is near, as our Saviour says in St Luke 21:28 The second Advent is upon us … anytime.

Christ Different than the Prophets

Even in the prison, word gets to St John the Forerunner – surely the town was in an uproar.  A spectacle like none other – who raises the dead and give sight to the blind?  Who restores lepers and makes the lamb walk or opens deaf ears?  Not St John the forerunner … and he had been the first prophet for hundreds of years and was in prison already.

We can’t allow ourselves to think that the days of Christ on earth were “ho hum”  Each day God was alive on earth was a spectacle for the angels and demons.  There was nothing was untouched by his life. The word of Him had travelled far – Spain, Africa and beyond.  It wasn’t like some guy, living unknown in Stoney Creek.  I lived here for 10 years – very, very few took any notice.

Not Doubting but Confirming

I’ve heard, as you may have, incorrectly, that St John had been doubting Christ was actually the Messiah…What rubbish – that kind of teaching shows a lack, my own lack, of following our Apostolic faith.  I would read it, think about it a bit and then tell others my own interpretation,  of completely inaccurate things.

In doing so, I defame St John, making him out to be a backslider …  The greatest born of woman.  If he was such a tail turner – why would our Saviour take so much effort to tell of his glories?  Certainly St John knew Jesus was the Christ – of course, he’d grown up on the same stories.  Elizabeth was his mother – surely she’d have raised him along with his devout father on the events taking place in their lives.

He wasn’t doubting, but confirming.  Having heard God from heaven declare that Jesus was His Son and having talked about Him for years – now he show’s his own followers that Jesus is the Messiah.  For them, he was able to say, “Behold the Lamb of God …”

Take No Offence in Christ

Christ conversely – tells St John’s disciples, you have seen for yourself.  Go and tell John that you believe – and take no offence in Me.  St John would not be offended, he was about to die for what he knew about Christ.  His words and actions were offensive – he had said many strong things.  Christ’s cross, death and burial were an offence to many.

And then he added pointedly, as St John Chrysostom says, “And blessed is the one who takes no offence at me.”  By saying this Jesus implied that he knew even his questioners’ unuttered thoughts.  For if he had said simply “I am he,” this would have fallen short of overcoming their unstated sense of being offended.

What happens? They’re converted…They go back and tell of Jesus’ words, the proof of healed people and the testimony of peace from those who had been set free from demons.  Real things happening, lives are changed, now they are walking and praising God.

Christ Explains John’s Ministry

They go back to St John and then our Saviour declares to those remaining, the meaning of St John’s mission.  He defends John to those gathered and explains what his life was about, how he was to be sent before Christ to make the way straight.

It wouldn’t be too much longer and St John will be killed and precede our Lord to explain to the dead that He is coming and thus continue his mission even after death.  He was much more than a prophet for in the womb he was filled with the Holy Spirit and bore witness.

The Ministry of John the Baptist

God actually gave prophesies about St John.  He didn’t just say Christ was coming, he pointed Him out.  Actually baptising God, in the flesh.  Not a mere man, not simply a prophet, but none greater was born of women, he was the messenger (or angel) that would announce the coming of the Lord.

Likewise, we have a spirit filled, miraculous promise of life.  God has come, in the flesh – through the blessed mother Mary.  We have salvation because she submitted to God with her whole life.  She gave up her own way – everything is about Christ in her life, even all the icons of her are only pointing to Christ.

The beginning of His humanity is just like ours.  John was always be pointing to His divinity – as we will one day share, becoming one with Him, as Mother Mary was, we will be, with The Trinity and each other – the one Body of Christ.

The Incarnation

We have the incarnation because God planned her to be His vessel.  She was the only woman to ever be graced with such an honour from God.  All women will call me blessed, she said. We have the example of simple obedience from her.  She wasn’t seen often – but her Son is on every page.  We don’t have to receive notoriety for our Saviour to receive glory.


He has promised that His own Body and Blood is for our healing and strength.  As He commanded – do this as often as you eat it, we receive our sustaining bread, is the Manna from heaven – literally taken into our bodies.  We have been filled with resurrection life by the Holy Spirit and we have been sent before the Lord’s second return.

To do what …?  It is simple.  We are to do unto others as we would have them do to us, help the needy, cure the sick, open blind eye, comfort those who weep etc.  We all know the lists.  So while we are getting ready to celebrate the first Advent, we have also to think about the next.  Am I ready, am I following orders or just talking about them. There are very simple things to simply saying “Merry Christmas” every chance you get …

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Pat


1 Thomas C. Oden and Steven A. McKinion, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 239-240

2 Ibid, 239

3 See: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/suicide-canada-infographic.html

4 Thomas C. Oden and Quentin F. Wesselschmidt, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VIII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), ?

Van Eyck, Jan, 1390-1440. John the Baptist, Ghent Altarpiece, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56708 [retrieved April 1, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jan_van_Eyck_-_The_Ghent_Altarpiece_-_St_John_the_Baptist_(detail)_-_WGA07634.jpg.

Homily on St. Matthew 3:1-12

St. Matthew 3:1-12; Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13


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

This morning we have arrived at the second week of Advent.  The focus of the week is Love.  We are going to look at this in the light of the Coming of Christ and what it means for us.  In our Gospel portion we learn that it demands repentance and preparation of the way.

John the Baptist


The Kingdom of Christ

John the Baptist called the people of his day to repentance because the kingdom of heaven was at hand or near.  Christ is about to come to establish his kingdom.  What is his kingdom?  His kingdom is the justification by faith and the sanctification of the Spirit.  It is the first and second comings of Christ, and it is also the virtuous life.  When we live here on earth as if we lived in heaven, by not living according to the passions, then we truly possess the Kingdom of heaven.

Prepare the Way

The mission of John the Baptist was to prepare the souls and hearts of those who would believe in Christ.  What did he tell them that we might learn how to prepare our own souls and hearts for Christ?  The Fathers tell us that prepare the way and bear the fruits of repentance are synonymous.  One is stated poetically and the other practically.  God is desiring to live among his people so preparation must be made.


John prepared the ways of mercy and truth, faith and justice for the people of his day.  How do we prepare and have the kingdom near us?  We must prepare these ways and paths in our hearts, senses and souls.  St. Chromatius tells us,

Pave within you the way of chastity, the way of faith and the way of holiness.  Build roads of justice.  Remove every scandal of offence from your heart.  For it is written: “Remove the stones from the road.”  And then, indeed, through the thoughts of your heart and the very movements of your soul, Christ the king will enter along certain paths.1

Preparation for Christ takes work on our part.  Are we willing to prepare a suitable place for him to live within our hearts?  Are we willing to live in holiness and repentance?

His Clothing a Picture

Let us take a few moments to look at the clothes of John the Baptist.  He wore the skin of a camel i.e. of an unclean animal.  Christ, the Holy One of God, clothed himself with our humanity and our flesh.  The clothing of John the Baptist points to the incarnation of Christ.  Even by his dress, he was heralding the coming of Christ.

He had a leather belt around his waist.  This reminds us that before the coming of Christ we were trapped in sins and various vices, but now they are restrained through the virtue that he has given us.

John’s Baptism

In the book of Acts chapter nineteen, there is a slight problem that arises in the church because of the baptism of John.  John’s baptism did not give remission of sins.  It was merely a baptism of repentance.  It trained the people to be ready for the baptism of Christ where we are baptised into his death and resurrection.

Children of God or Snakes?

We see a group of people, leaders of the Jews, who were known as the children of God being referred to as a brood of vipers, as snakes.  Snakes bring to mind Satan who was the serpent from the beginning.  How could this happen?  Could it happen to us who are now children of God?  They made themselves the children of the Devil by their own choices.  John the Baptist was not making them a brood of vipers but merely pointing out that they were.  We must choose to follow Christ each and every day and bring forth the fruits of repentance which is a godly life or we may find ourselves the children of the Devil just like the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Faith is the Characteristic of God’s Children

John anticipates their response of Abraham being their father.  Scripture and the Fathers teach us that the true children of Abraham aren’t those who are his descendants according to the flesh, but rather those who imitate his faith.  The children of Abraham aren’t an ethnicity, but rather a people of faith in God from every tribe nation and tongue.

John goes on and states from these stones children of Abraham can be raised up.  The fathers tell us that this is speaking of the Gentiles, us, who would be added into the family of God.  However, being called stones is no compliment.  It is a reference to the hardness of our hearts and how great is God’s salvation to even turn hearts of stone into his children.

Repentance Leads to Salvation

The people are called to repentance, just as we are every day and the axe of judgement is laid to the root of the tree.  Judgement is imminent, but it is not a foregone conclusion.  It is not yet in the hand of the one who will cut the tree down.  If we live a life of repentance, the axe will be put away.  However, if we refuse to repent then the axe will cut down the tree by the roots.  God is giving us time to repent, but at the same time he is reminding us that Judgement will come upon the unrepentant.

It was the job of the prophets to call the people to repentance, hence John had a baptism of repentance.  However, it is the power of Christ to save and redeem.  We had been called for centuries to repent but now Christ has come, and salvation is available to all who will repent.  Let us, therefore, look to our lives repent from where we have fallen and receive the salvation of Christ.

Christ’s Coming Foretold

In our first Testament reading, we see that Christ’s coming was foretold.  In fact, in verse one of this passage both the Virgin Mary and Christ are foretold.  The Fathers tells us that the shoot that sprouts from the root of Jesse is the Virgin Mary and Christ is the Bud that will blossom.  The Virgin Mary bore our Saviour becoming the Theotokos, the God-bearer for the incarnation of our Saviour.

In the next verse we see what appears to be seven spirits resting upon Him.  However, it would be better understood as the Holy Spirit being a river and these seven spirits as channels.  This river has its source in Christ.  As we draw near to Christ, we receive these rivers of His Spirit, of His grace being poured into our lives.

Christ’s Second Coming

Next, we see that Christ will slay the wicked and ruthless with his mouth.  This St. Paul explains to us in his letter to the Thessalonians is the destruction of the Antichrist.  As we have said before, our enemies are not other people, they are the forces of evil.  This is who Christ will be slaying.

Mankind Transformed Through Christ

In the next few verses, we see the wonder of animals that are violent dwelling with those who are calm.  While this is actually going to happen in the resurrection, there is a much more practical understanding of this for our daily lives.  These predatory animals speak to us first of St. Paul and after that all persecutors of the church who are converted.  They were once ravenously destroying the people of God and now they are docile dwelling with animals that are considered prey.  It is not just that they dwell with these harmless animals, but they are also imitating their lifestyle they are eating what they are eating.

This also tells us that in the Church, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the humble, Kings and peasants are all dwelling together and are ruled by the children who are the apostles and apostolic men.  The child leading them also of course refers to the Child that was given to us.  The Holy Innocent one of God came to the earth as a child and has led us from our ragings of sin to be peaceful enough to be led by a child.

Christ Comes Quietly

Our Psalm reading this morning speaks prophetically of Christ.  He is our Lord and Saviour whose kingdom and throne will stand as long as the universe.  His justice will remain forever until the moon is no more.  He will come down like water on the fleece.  This is again speaking of his virgin birth.  He will descend to the earth in the most quiet manner, and we won’t even recognise his coming.

His Coming Brings Hope

Finally, as we look at the Epistle, we see that his coming brings hope.  We have hope through the encouragement of the Scriptures.  Encouragement cannot be gotten from the Scriptures unless we believe and understand them.  This is not for those who are outside the faith, but only for believers.  We are called to love one another as we think of Christ.  It is not that we are to merely love but we are to be in accord, we are to be in step with Christ as we love on another and glorify God in unity.

Love is Stronger than Rejection

Our love is stronger than any man’s rejection.  If any would seek to reject us, we cannot do the same to them.  We must display even more love toward him, that he or she might be drawn back to us in the fellowship of the Spirit.  He is a member of the body and we must do everything in our power to restore separated members back to the fold.

Christ has Come to Fulfill the Promises

We had transgressed the law therefore Christ had come to fulfill it.  This is not so that we can now keep it, as I have heard, and you may have as well.  This is so the promises that had been made to the Fathers which had been suspended might come upon us through Christ.  These promises are for both Jews and Gentiles, as John the Baptist hinted at in our Gospel passage and now St. Paul urges Jews and Gentiles towards unity with one another.  He was teaching both of them humility, for the Jews had been called over and over throughout history and turned away many times whereas the Gentiles had been overlooked as it were for many years, but now they are both being united in the Church.


This morning then let us lay aside the passions and seek to acquire the virtues.  We must acquire chastity, faith and holiness.  We must make the effort to change our lives and God will give us the grace to do so.  Let us rejoice that salvation has come to us Gentiles as well.  We must purpose to follow Christ in everything, choosing the right over the wrong.  We must seek to be imitators of God and live by faith and thus be children of God and children of Abraham.  Let us restrain our sins and vices through the virtue that Christ has given us.  That is, let us spend our energy doing and meditating on the good so that the passions have nothing to feed on.

Let us draw near to Christ and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit in these seven channels.  If we find within ourselves a predatory spirit still remaining, let us look to older believers and Christ and imitate the gentleness that we see in them.  Let us seek to be led by a child i.e. by Christ and the Apostolic teaching that has been handed down to us.  Let us rejoice that as believers encouragement can come to us through the proper understanding of the Scriptures.  We must love one another in the unity of Christ and seek to restore to fellowship all those who fall away from him.  Finally, let us rejoice that the promises have come to us because Christ has fulfilled the law.

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), ?

Stothard, Thomas, 1755-1834 ; Skelton, William, 1763-1848. The Macklin Bible — John Preaching in the Wilderness, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54080 [retrieved March 26, 2020]. Original source: A gift to Vanderbilt University from John J. and Anne Czura..

Hicks, Edward, 1780-1849. Peaceable Kingdom, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=53085 [retrieved March 26, 2020]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Edward_Hicks_-_Peaceable_Kingdom.jpg.