On July 6, on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost and on the feast of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir we had a nice celebration at St. George Church. The Divine Liturgy was served by our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov. Following the Scripture lessons the Rector preached a homily:
“In today’s Epistle lesson St. Paul is reasoning about such things as freedom and slavery. Recently we celebrated Independence Day, an American national holiday commemorating acquiring freedom and sovereignty of this nation from the slavery to the British Empire. But even after getting independence the American society knew such thing as slavery. In a number of American states people had other men and women as slaves. The society had to undergo a painful process of Civil War to end that shameful practice of slavery.”
“St. Paul lived in the ancient times when slavery was a normal thing. It became especially spread after Rome became an empire. Every fourth person living in the capital city of Rome was a slave. Slaves had no rights, they were considered a property of their masters. They could not make any important decisions for themselves. They could be punished, tortured or killed by their masters without any consequences. They were bought and sold. This is why when St. Paul was writing his Epistle to the Christians in Rome, he had to consider this reality. And in today’s Epistle he uses the terms ‘slaves’, ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’ to be better understood by his listeners. He says today, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh” (Rom. 6, 19). Let us then try to understand the main ideas of today’s reading of the holy Apostle.”
“Our main slavery is a slavery to sin. It started when man sinned and became fallen. The mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was to set us free from that slavery. His mission was successful. All who follow Christ and become baptized are freed from sin of Adam and are given a right to become admitted to the society of Saints. Now we no longer belong to the devil, to the sin, but to Jesus Christ who is our Lord and Master. This is why St. Paul says in today’s Epistle lesson, “Having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6, 18). God means righteousness and justice; God means goodness and truth; God means holiness and purity. This is why, if we now belong to Him, speaking in human terms of the times of St. Paul, we are “slaves of righteousness”. We are slaves of God’s holiness, of His goodness, of His truth and His love.”
“St. Paul further reasons that being enslaved by God demands to fulfill His will. St. Paul says, “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and a lawlessness…, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Rom. 6, 19). If we wish to belong to Jesus Christ, then our life has to be a service to righteousness and acquiring of holiness. We cannot betray our Master by serving other masters such as our passions, sins and the devil.”
“We should add here that belonging to Jesus Christ, becoming a slave of righteousness is totally voluntary thing. We embrace that kind of service voluntarily. If we truly understand that such slavery is our true home and our true dignity, we accept it and live by it being happy. We also understand that we Christians are by far better off than so called “free men” in the world. St. Paul teaches us in today’s lesson that the fruit of slavery to Christ is holiness and eternal life. But the fruit of being free from Christ is death. He says, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Rom. 6, 21-22).”
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, humanity needs to choose. As two thousand years ago when St. Paul lived, so today, men have to choose between slavery to righteousness and slavery to sin. Jesus Christ by His sacrifice on the cross, by His Redemption accomplished for us, made this choice possible. But it is up to us which slavery to choose. It is our voluntary choice which master to submit. Either we choose our Jesus Christ, the Son of God to be our Lord and Master and to become slaves of righteousness, or we may choose to become or continue to be slaves of sin. There is no other option. We may be deluded by sin to think that if we are free from religious and other traditional rules, then we are truly free people living according to our own will. Many people fell for that. They did revolutions, they destroyed the churches, they proclaimed the reason and social issues to be supreme in our lives. But in fact, they only served the sin and death. And now, in our times people who wish to be free from the Church, from the traditional values are deluded. They think that they are free, but they are miserable slaves of their own passions, sins and eventually, the slaves of the devil and death. A very painful example is the raise of the gay movement. In our times, American cities hold so-called gay parades which they even call the “parades of pride”. Homosexuals show their pride of being lawless in their lifestyle. Sinners show that they are proud to sin. And every mayor of our city participates in that shameful action putting a disgrace on this city and on its leadership. Well, they can show that but all of them should be aware of the words of St. Paul, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6, 23).”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Our presence here, in this holy temple shows that we made a choice to be slaves of righteousness. Let us then serve our only Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us present our members not as slaves to uncleanness for lawlessness as many people do, but as slaves of righteousness for holiness. This slavery will bring us eternal life. If we do differently, we may inherit eternal death. Let us remember the words of St. Paul: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6, 23).”
During the Liturgy Fr. Igor proclaimed the litany for the deceased at which he commemorated the newly-departed Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, the first hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who passed away on July 5.
After the Liturgy dismissal the Rector reminded parishioners that during the coming week the Church celebrates two great feasts: the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (July 7) and feast of the Holy Major Apostles Peter and Paul (July 12). While we are not having a service on July 7, we will celebrate feast of St. Peter and Paul on Saturday, July 12.