by Fr. Photius Avant –
Sin itself, of any variety, cannot be blessed by the Church. It can’t be. Sin is destructive. It is corrosive. It has within it the principle of death, of dissolution.
“Thine they were. Thou gavest them Me and they have kept Thy Word” says the Lord Jesus Christ in His high priestly prayer to the Father (John 17:6). And it is the Word, Jesus Christ Himself, which the Father gave to the apostles, Whom the apostles have kept.
And, it is the Word Jesus Christ Who is defended at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325 which we commemorated yesterday. A terrible heresy had disrupted the peace of the Church: the heresy of Arius. Now, he was not the first heretic and certainly not the last. But, heresy, all heresy, is destructive because in changing what we understand about Christ, in changing about what we understand about the Holy Trinity, the end goal gets changed. The goalposts have been moved.
Arius taught that Jesus is simply a man, not the Eternal Son of God, not God as the Father is God. Now, what’s the problem with this teaching? Isn’t it enough that Jesus can just be a nice man and a good example? Well, what happens is that means that God didn’t take our nature upon Himself. He didn’t care to enter our history as one of us. He did not partake of our life and because of this, well, we can’t really partake of His life. We’re not invited into the inner life of God. Jesus is just a good example, and we just need to follow his good example, and then when we get to go to Heaven, we get our little reward. But, this is a violation of what Christ Himself preached, that He is God in the flesh and that He has come that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly, not mere survival, but the very life of God. The inner life of God, that’s what we’re invited into (John 10:10). This is what the heresy of Arius disrupted.
Brothers and sisters, we know that throughout the centuries there have been many other heresies which, with their erroneous assertions, moved the goalposts. And indeed, lamentably, our own time is not immune to this for there is a heresy which is beginning to spread even within the Orthodox Church. It’s not widespread by any stretch of the imagination, not at all, but it is there. And those who could check it have not checked it.
It is the heresy that homosexual unions can be blessed by the Church. Some people say homosexual marriage and some just say homosexual relations, in general, can be blessed by the Church. This group is largely Marcionite in their approach. We remember that Marcion disregarded the entire Old Testament. He said the God represented therein is an evil God, and He’s mean and savage, and we need to do away with that and just have Jesus. Well, that’s what this group does. But, Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law” (Matthew 5:17). And, we remember that the prescription in the law in Leviticus, “If a man lieth with a male as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13). This is one of the grievous sins which was understood to pollute the people involved in it, but also to pollute the land into which Yahweh had brought His people in which Yahweh abode with His people. And there were other such sins which merited the death penalty: adultery, murder.
And so it’s no accident when the Lord Jesus Christ gives the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7, that He addresses two of these matters which warrant the death penalty: adultery and murder. “You have heard of old you shall not commit adultery, but I tell you if a man looks on a woman to lust after her, he has committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). “You have heard you shall not commit murder, but I tell you that any man who becomes angry with his brother without cause is in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). We see that in Christ the law has not passed away; the law has been fulfilled, and with the coming of Christ, the penalties for such things have not gone away as some would assert. No, they’ve become sharper. Whereas before, a person was simply cut off from the land, now with the coming of Christ, a person unrepentant of these things, is cut out of the Kingdom of God.
This Marcionite-like group likes to assert, “Well, Jesus never talked about it.” This is not true. Christ is a good preacher, and He’s preaching to an exclusively Jewish audience. A good preacher doesn’t waste his time with things that people already know to be wrong. He addresses those things which a people have a tendency to have trouble with. St. Paul by contrast who this group says, “We don’t like St. Paul. We like Jesus.” Well, St. Paul was handpicked by Jesus (Acts 9). St. Paul addresses himself in his Epistles as the slave of Jesus Christ, and a slave does not do his own will but the will of his master. And so there is nothing that St. Paul says that Christ does not endorse.
St. Paul says, “Be not deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). What is rendered to us in the English as effeminate and abusers of themselves with mankind is euphemistic language, softening it for our English sensibilities. St. Paul’s language is actually far more graphic. I won’t say what he really says. You can ask me afterward; there are kids here. “Malakee” and “arsenokoitai”, you want to ask me what those mean, ask me after church.
So what we see is that this is not something that can be blessed by the Church. As we see that sin itself, of any variety, cannot be blessed by the Church. It can’t be. Sin is destructive. It is corrosive. It has within it the principle of death, of dissolution. And remember Christ said, “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Now, please don’t get the wrong impression. I am not singling out a single group saying that this group is rotten to the exclusion of all others. No, sin is sin.
We heard the list of what St. Paul said, right? So none of us are off the hook. All of us need to repent. All of us need healing. Each and every one of us needs healing. And because we need healing, we can’t admit that which poisons us. We can’t wink at that which is, “Well, everybody’s doing it. Well, it’s fashionable. This is where the world is going now.” At what point has the Church of Jesus Christ ever followed the zeitgeist?! The Church has always been a counter-culture, and in this particular regard, the Roman culture into which the Church was born were active participants in homosexual activity. It was not taboo by any stretch of the imagination. It was the Church who notably did not engage in this behavior
And so, the teaching of the Church is not going to change in regard to this which means that we need to change. Each and every one of us has a tendency toward sin. Each and every one of us has a certain kind of sin that we gravitate toward. Sin, when it works within us, is like roots going down through our very being. When we receive the forgiveness of our sins in confession, that sin is taken away, but the imprint of the root is there. There’s a hollowness that’s there, and that hollowness needs to be healed with divine grace and by cooperation with the grace of God. Then those holes within us can grow together.
Christ seeks to make us whole so what we need to do is pursue wholeness. Don’t look on another group of people and say, “Oh, they’re awful!” Look at yourself. How do I need to change? What do I do? What do I excuse in myself? What do I put off as if it’s not a big deal? Be honest! Look within yourself and accuse yourself and bring those sins to confession to be healed of them. Approach the chalice and receive the Divine Grace which obliterates sin and gives us power to produce virtue. I didn’t film this because I didn’t want this being cut up and misused. But, I want us to take this seriously.
The days are dark, and they’re only getting darker. The only light that many people will see is you so let your light shine brightly with the love of Jesus Christ. Share that love with everyone. Go out of your way for that person that maybe you otherwise wouldn’t go and talk to. Maybe you have an aversion towards people who look like this or look like that. Go out of your way and show Christ’s love to them because they need it. Everyone out there needs it, and we’ve got it so we have a responsibility. My purpose is to empower you and to equip you to do this. It is not my intention to harp on something that we all know to be sinful, to point at this group and say, “Oh, look how awful.” No, we need to accuse ourselves. We need to be forgiven. We need to pursue wholeness. We need to shine the light of Christ to everyone He has given us.
I said it on the feast of Ascension, and I’ll say it again, that Our Lord’s Ascension to the right hand of the Father gives us the noblest view of mankind that there is. No other religious system, no other philosophy has such an idea of the ultimate destiny of man. At this moment, human flesh and blood sit at the right hand of God the Father (Luke 24:36-53). That’s what we’re meant for. That’s what those people out there are meant for if only we will shine that light on them. The anthropology which the world gives, by contrast, is degrading because it says that you are your appetites. Well, if man is no more than the sum of his appetites, how is man very different from a dog? He’s not.
Shine your light, brothers and sisters. Shine your light brightly. As the days get darker, make sure you’re shining brighter. Get equipped to do it here. Make Sunday services, attending the Divine Liturgy, the bedrock of every week. Receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to renew that within yourself. Come to the Mystery of Confession often. Pray every day. This is how you keep that fire burning. This is how you keep the lamp lit brightly. If we do this, we will be fulfilling our charge as soldiers in Christ’s army (2 Timothy 2:3). To Him be all glory, honor, and worship together with the Father and the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages, Amen.