A sermon of His Reverence, Archimandrite Parthenius, spoken on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, in the “St. Peter and Paul” church, Galichnik, on 14th July 2019
Welcome to the glorious Galichnik! I am addressing you with the word dignified for a Christian – faithful. Because it’s a great honor, a Divine dignity, a heavenly invocation to have the right faith, to believe in the One true God, Holy Trinity. The word faithful is not just a simple denotation of a religious man. It is a real communion, participation in the living God. It is true that all men believe in something, including the ones who determine themselves as atheists, nihilists, agnostics, etc., because even they believe in something, although not being aware of it. But not all people could be called faithful – this term surpasses its etymological meaning and becomes a specific determination, denoting a follower of the true Divine Revelation. Those who believe in something that doesn’t exist, something imaginary, whether an idea or a whole system of believes, cannot be defined as faithful, but rather as a person of empty faith.
Today I rejoice especially because I see this beautiful, impressive church, built with great effort by our ancestors and now filled with faithful; I rejoice to see your bright faces as the most beautiful decoration of this divine place. I invited you here in Galichnik because in the past every time we served here, the church was mostly empty. Without us bringing faithful from other places, it was always empty. That is why I am so happy to see you in such a great number now. Beside, this church is not easy to fill, because you see just how big it is. And what does it mean? That once our ancestors had a great need to build big churches in order to gather all the faithful inside. The churches were their most pleasant, most favorite gathering place, because they were themselves a living Church, temples of the living God, active members of the Body of Christ. The Church is not only the material buildings, but mostly and above all – the faithful. Therefore every time I would see the church empty I would feel sad, almost to tears. Today I rejoice a lot. Not with the walls, not with the frescoes and icons but with you, the living icons of Holy Trinity, who have gathered here for a prayer, for the Holy Liturgy.
On this, 4th Sunday after Pentecost, according to the Typikon of Divine services, during the Liturgy we read the Evangelical account about the encounter and conversation of our Lord with a Roman military captain from Capernaum. This captain of a whole squad of 100 soldiers, also addressed as centurion, was a Roman by birth, not a Jew, so consequently one could conclude that he didn’t know about the true faith in the One God. But look what happened: this centurion, this Roman soldier, apparently a heterodox, whose profession was to conquer, enslave, and kill, goes to the Saviour Christ and tells Him: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. Imagine just how great love he shows, not to his parent, not to his child or relative – which is natural – but rather to his subordinate, to his servant! My servant, he says, is grievously tormented. Touched by this compassion with someone subjected to him, Lord Jesus Christ replies: I will come and heal him (Matthew 8, 6-7). And then something incredible happens, something none of us would have ever imagined. Namely, this Roman, this conqueror of the chosen God’s nation, this “infidel” demonstrates such a strong faith before the people, a faith that touches the very border of the most profound theology. Filled with unusual humility and faith, he tells Christ: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it (Matthew, 8. 8-9). Notice well – he says: “speak just one word, one single word of Yours, and it’s enough”. Thus, a Roman centurion, a stranger to the Holy Scriptures, presents himself as an enlightened theologian, better than the ones who read daily, though not with faith and heart, the Holy Bible; greater than the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Jerusalem, who knew the prophecies and psalms by heart and took pride in it, but in vain – they didn’t have true faith. They wouldn’t open sincerely their hearts to God, so that they could preach the divine teaching properly. Overcome by envy and malice, they didn’t recognize the One Who walked among them, preached to them about the great mysteries of God and performed miracles before their eyes, to be the Son and the Word of God, the Saviour of the world. And here a Roman centurion, through his faith, confessed Christ as a God, as a Word of God. Speak the word only… He knew that for God everything is possible, that one word is enough for the servant to be healed. He had such faith that he knew one smallest word would be sufficient. Do you see the faith of this man? Not even the Disciples of Christ were aware at that point that He is the Son of the living God, that he is the Word, the Logos of God through Whom everything was created. What does the Holy Gospel say? In the beginning of time, at the creation of the world, before every act of creating, it says: And God said… And it was so. The Pre-eternal Council of Holy Trinity, the Father, the Logos and the Holy Spirit, created the world. St. John the Theologian begins his Gospel with that exact motif, with the beginning of creation and the defining of the Threesome God. That’s why it has been named the Theologian, because he begins his Gospel with high theology, with the enlightenment from above. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made (John, 1, 1-3).
Now we begin to understand why God marveled and was so delighted by the strong faith, the profound theology of the centurion and exclaimed before His Disciples and before the people: Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel… And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour (Matthew 8, 10, 13). Do you see, my dear ones, how much faith is fruitful?! How important it is for a man to open his heart for God and believe. Really, it’s often hard to believe, but that’s the essence of our spiritual struggle. Faith is the first step, it is our deposit to our Lord’s bank, as I would call it, a deposit which brings great income. Therefore let us be brave. When it comes to faith, we often doubt. This is, of course, doing of the enemy of human kind, who constantly imposes bad thoughts upon us: wait a minute, it’s not wise to confide, you have your own strength, rely on your strength, you can cope with life on your own, don’t need God for it etc. But it’s not so. Without the faith in God a man cannot live. Physically he might, but on spiritual level he loses himself and gets defeated. And when it comes to the active faith – miracles happen. Just like it happened to the centurion today. We have already mentioned that even the Apostles were not aware Who their Teacher actually was. Noone knew! Except, Of course, the Most Holy Theotokos, the Mother of Christ. Her faith, confession and theology emerge fully at the wedding of Canna. Namely, when they were lacking wine, ne was almost consumed, some of the guests informed Her, so She addressed Her Son and God: They have no wine. The Lord replied to Her: Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come – meaning that the time had not yet come for His public preaching among the people. But His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it (John 2, 3-5). So She knew through Her faith that Jesus Christ is the Son and the Logos of God, the Creator of everything. That’s why She said with such conviction: Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it!
Faith is the beginning of all virtues. The Apostle says that now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (I Corrint. 13, 13). Those are the three main Christian virtues and indeed the greatest of these is love. But there is an order with them: without faith nobody could reach hope, much less love. Faith is the beginning, a foundation, the victory that overcometh the world (I John 5, 4). It makes miracles and every day we are witnesses to it. Its enough for a man to start analyzing his life and would see many things, accidental at first glance, but actually a Divine intervention. How many times we have realized: I was saved by a miracle, as if something was watching over me, the worst thing didn’t happen… Who is the One to constantly watch over us in our lives? Mine, your, our God. Therefore let us entrust ourselves fully to Him, more intensively, more sincerely, with greater zeal, just like our ancestors once did. They built these wonderful churches, and even went to such high, inaccessible places, just so they could preserve the most important thing – their faith. Because they knew that without their Christian faith they are nothing. It’s not by chance that Christ says in the Gospel: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10, 16). Why did He say that? Because the snake is especially careful about its head. If something hurts its body, it would survive, would be healed, but if someone crushes its head – it dies instantly. That’s the very message of today’s Gospel: watch over your head, keep your faith, because without it a man becomes disoriented, lost, and incapable. Even when it comes to the entire nation, if it starts to lose its faith, it will lose its identity, disappear. And through faith we become true theologians, preachers of faith, not by the academic title, but with our life. My dear faithful, thank you once again for being here together with us and for inspiring me to address you. For when a person sees people thirsty for the word of God, then his heart and mind open and he begins to speak. God bless you!