On the seventh Sunday after Easter, the Gospel points out that true faith and prayer maintain the unity of the Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ prays for the unity of the Church because He knows how hard it is to maintain it in the face of selfish passions of humans and of the wiles of the devil, who brings division through everything he undertakes, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said on 28 May 2017.
During his homily delivered at the St George Chapel of the Patriarchal Residence, the Patriarch of Romania pointed to the spiritual importance of the Seventh Sunday of Pascha, when the Church commemorates the holy God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.
He noted in the day’s Gospel from John the Saviour Jesus Christ prays for the unity of His Church. Before His passions, His death, His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, the Lord Christ prayed for His Apostles and for all those who would believe in Him because of preaching the Gospel. He prayed that God the Father would keep them in the world after He would pass from earthly life to heavenly life, the patriarch said.
Before suffering the Cross, the Saviour Jesus Christ prayed that his disciples may be one, as He and the Father are one. The patriarch reflected that Christ also prayed for those who believe in Him that they may be one and may live in communion as the Father and the Son are one and live in perfect communion, in mutual self-offering of sacred love.
His Beatitude went on to say that Christ prayed for the unity of His disciples and for His Church, being aware of the danger of many misunderstandings and divisions between those who believe in Him, caused by sin.
The Patriarch noted that through this prayer, Christ stressed that it is not enough to speak about the unity of the Church, but we must also pray for it. We must pray to be able to keep and confess together true Christian faith. Through their communion in prayer and deed, Christians manifest the sacred unity of the Church, he said.
The Romanian Patriarch pointed out that Christ the Lord does not speak about the unity of the Church in a homily but in a state of prayer.
Reflecting on the Gospel passage read during the Divine Liturgy, the Patriarch noted that we are able to observe the concern the Archpriest, the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ has for his disciples, and the faithful entrusted to be shepherded by him. What does shepherding mean? the Patriarch asked. It means to spiritually nourish with and give for drink the truth of the Gospel and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those entrusted by God to spiritual pastors.
He went on to explain the spiritual significance of the decisions taken by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea focusing on the example given by the Holy Fathers of the Church that were present at the works of the Council
The Holy Bishops who gathered at Nicaea, the patriarch noted, had the duty to keep the true faith against heresies, divisions and all types of schisms. The Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, the patriarch cautioned, urge us to keep the true faith, given that today’s world is more and more troubled and spiritually misguided.
In his homily, His Beatitude pointed to the tiresome work to strengthen true faith carried out by the Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council convened in Constantinople in 381, when the second part of the orthodox creed was formulated.
The Patriarch noted that the Holy Fathers of the Church formulated the apostolic faith during the first two Ecumenical Councils, and then the Church explained it in her service and theology books, saying that this faith represents the light of Christian life.
By professing true faith and by keeping the unity of the Church, Christians can acquire eternal life. Only by confessing the true faith, can we attain to salvation and enter the glory of the Kingdom of the Most Holy Trinity, into which our Lord Jesus Christ has ascended, the patriarch noted. Thus, he said, we are able to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit who descended upon the Holy Apostles on the day of Pentecost.
In order to know the true faith of the Church, the patriarch cautioned that every Christian ought to know well the Orthodox Symbol of Faith, and recommended the faithful to read the Orthodox Catechism.
Patriarch Daniel urged the faithful to bring up their children and young people in the true faith. Let us not be deceived by the mistakes of various religious groups that consider themselves sent by God, but who actually seek to detach Orthodox faithful from the Church of the Holy Apostles and of the Holy Fathers!
Recalling that the Holy Fathers witnessed together the true faith and rejected the heresy of Arius, the patriarch said that we learn by observing them that true faith cannot be kept by a single person in isolation but in a communion of thought, confession and experience with the Church.
Patriarch Daniel insisted that true faith is kept in the Church and by the Church, while the Holy Synod is the voice of the Church illumined by the Holy Spirit in order to confess true faith and thus to keep a living communion with the Most Holy Trinity.
The Patriarch closed his homily by asking for the intercessions of the Holy Fathers from the First Ecumenical Council and of all the saints to keep the true faith as the greatest spiritual gift of life.
Let us grow in this faith by the holiness it offers. Let us acquire it and experience the joy about which the Saviour speaks in His Gospel saying: that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13). Let us rejoice in being Orthodox and in living in this world with the hope of salvation and of eternal life, the patriarch urged ending his speech.
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