In your visits “Up North”, where the light pollution is not as strong as it is here in the city, take a look up into the sky at all of the stars that shine brilliantly in the sky. Each of those stars weighs millions of tons, yet just seems to float there in empty space, trillions of miles from each other. How this happens is a mystery, but in an attempt to explain it, scientists tell us how each star in the universe pushes pulls from one another…almost as if there an invisible thread which holds them all together.
This is a fascinating mystery of the universe to contemplate, but my words this morning is not meant to explain the theory of Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. I instead wanted to talk about the micro-version of this phenomena that exists here in our own neck of the woods. Just as God endowed the stars with an enormous power that hold each other together, he gave the human race a similar power…one that is meant to hold each one of us up throughout our own lives…the power of love.
We were created to have perfect love for God and perfect love for one another. But unlike the stars in the heavens, the love that unites us all (through our own faults) has become distorted. We have learned over time, to love the things that we are supposed to hate, and to hate the things that we were meant to love.
Bishop Augoustinos of Greece in his reflection on today’s epistle from his book “Sparks from the Apostles”, tell us the story of the priest in a village in Greece, who on Sunday morning went into the bell tower, and began to ring the Church bells for the start of the Hours and Divine Liturgy. When he had finished, he saw 3 large tour buses full of his parishioners, driving off in the opposite direction to catch the big soccer match that was taking place several miles away from the village. Divine Liturgy that Sunday was almost completely empty, with the exception of a few faithful who had remained.
After the match was over, the tour buses came back to the village, full of grown men and women sobbing because their team had lost. To make matters worse, they began to ridicule the poor priest, who refused to go with them that morning to bless the team!
This is but a small example of the distortion of love that exists in the world that we live in! We love to consume sports and other entertainment, making it the focal point of our lives! Day after day, we are programmed to believe in the love of money. We strive for public notoriety and popularity. But where do those things that we put most of our time and energy in get us?
What comes out of having the nicest house? What eternal prize to we get when we have the most twitter followers or Instagram likes? What everlasting lasting joy comes out of winning a soccer match? In the grand scheme of existence, these things are meaningless…yet we put so much energy and attention into achieving them! Our priorities are out of whack! Our love is constantly mis-directed away from where it should be!
We give thanks to the Church today on this feast of All Saints, for giving us that reminder that we all need of where true victory lies in this life. We honor and remember our spiritual heroes, some known and some unknown, the Church’s “Hall of Famers” who understood the universal truth: “The greatest victory we can achieve in this life…is to conquer ourselves”.
There is this thought that I know sometimes crosses our minds when we think about the Saints, and it is one that is completely false: “It’s too hard, living in today’s world, to become a saint.” We often fall into the trap of believing that somehow, the Saints come from a different mold than us. But the more that we read about their lives, we begin to learn that these victors are just like you and I in every way! They were ordinary women, men, boys, girls, and even small children, who learned to see their lives through the spiritual lens of the Church.
My beloved, it is not hard to become a saint. We don’t have to be a rocket-scientists, or understand Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, to enter joyfully into communion with God. We are sitting this morning in a literal “Saint Making Factory”, being molded and formed into men, women, and children, who are learning to set their entire life apart for God.
Every time we come to Liturgy, we get a true taste of sainthood, because when we partake of the very Body and Blood of God Himself, we all, for at least a split second, becoming LIVING SAINTS. Our communion with the Creator becomes complete and full, until that moment when we turn around from the chalice, allow our mind to wander from the mystery that we just partook of, and begin to think about something else.
The journey to Sainthood, the victory over ourselves, the proper re-orienting of our love to God, begins for all of us at Holy Baptism and can take a tremendous jump forward right here this morning. This is why we are here. This is why we come to receive a taste of immortality at the Divine Liturgy. How long that taste lasts, and what we do with our God-given Sainthood after we leave this morning, is completely up to us. Will we allow ourselves to take the victory of the Eucharist and allow it to penetrate the rest of our lives? Or will we take our union with God for granted, and begin to show our love towards something else?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, start small today. When you receive the Eucharist this morning, turn around, and try hard to keep your Sainthood in-tact for as long as you can. I read often in the lives of the Holy Fathers, how after Divine Liturgy, there would often be a monk or hermit, who would stand in the Church for hours after the dismissal, shining with an incredible radiance that is indescribable. The other monks would know better not to distract or approach them, but simply cross themselves as they walked past, hoping to get a taste of the Grace that they were able to keep within themselves.
Use the Holy men and women…all of the saints that have gone before us, as your example. Go home and read what they had to say about achieving victory! But most importantly, ask for their prayers and their love, as we all strive to join the communion of the Saints, not just for a few minutes, but for all eternity.
Drops From the Living Water, Augoustinos Kantiotes, Bishop of Florina, Greece