We give thanks to God this morning for allowing us to open our eyes, get into our vehicles, and drive into the streets of the world in order to arrive at our experience of Heaven here in this little church in the woods. We are doubly blessed to be witnesses of the re-birth and illumination of these four new warriors for Christ: Maximos, James, Sophia, and little Eliana Seraphima who was bathed in the Divine Waters of Baptism this morning, coming out more radiant than when she went in! This little girl, being so pure, innocent, and full of joy, stands as an ultimate example for what it means to live life as a Christian.
These past few weeks there was some wonderful discussion within Eliana’s family over who her patron saint would be. Eventually, with her help, the family settled on St. Seraphim of Sarov. He is a wonderful Russian Saint who had a very famous saying which fits Eliana’s disposition perfectly: “Acquire the Spirit of Peace, and a thousand around you will be saved!”
Eliana Seraphima put this famous saying of her patron saint to life this last week when I met with the family to go over the Baptismal service and to prepare them all for their life confessions. I must admit that prior to our meeting, I was having a very difficult day. The weather was miserable and my body has still not adapted to the Michigan Weather changes and seasonal allergens. My home life had been a bit chaotic, as everyone was also under the weather. Each of us goes through days like the one I was having, where even lifting a finger is difficult—let alone trying to concentrate on the thirty different things that need to be done.
After my meeting with the family was over, we walked out to the parking lot. Little Eliana came up to me and gave me the biggest bear hug goodbye. With a very sweet voice, and a tremendous grin, she said to me, “I love you!” Her smile was infectious and I was immediately caught up in grinning ear to ear while saying, “I love you too!” Eliana then ran to the car, turned around, and with a radiance that you had to see to believe, said, “Love makes me happy!”, before giggling and getting into her car.
With one hug and a smile, and with the most important word in the human language, love, Eliana turned my entire day around. It all came from one little girl’s authentically Christian disposition to life. For those that have not gotten to know her yet, she is the sweetest little gem of an Orthodox Christian, and every time I look at her, all I am able to see is the unconditional love of Christ.
Brothers and Sisters, this love, this innocence, this radiant disposition towards our spiritual life, is the aim that we all need to have. It is this type of love that we all need to gain, because growing up, we all at some point in our lives tend to lose that innocence. We lose the radiance that we all received on day of our own Baptism.
We read in the gospel today (Luke 8:41-56) how our Lord found himself in a large crowd of people while on his way to heal Jairus’s daughter. In the midst of this sea of humanity was a woman who we hear had been hemorrhaging blood for twelve years. She was someone whose suffering could not be healed by doctors or conventual means.
In many ways, we as human beings find ourselves in the same boat as this woman. How many times have we confessed to hemorrhaging with anger or wrath towards someone or something? Some of us suffer from avarice or greed. Some have suffered for even more than twelve years with lust, gluttony, self-love, jealousy, or laziness. When we each examined ourselves closely, we begin to see that we all suffer from the uncleanliness of sin, which causes us all to lose that life of innocence, peace, and joy that we were given in the beginning.
The woman in the Gospel knew that her suffering could not be healed by conventual means so she sought another solution. In the midst of the crowd she saw the only one in this world capable of curing her. It was the same physician that we all turn to in order to correct the spiritual diseases of our own life—Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We rejoice today as our catechumens have officially entered into the crowd with us. They have all joined this 2,000 year old family of people who strive day after day to look for ways to navigate the chaos of the world in order to simply touch the Hem of our Lord’s garment. They hoped to be healed, to become whole again, and to restore their innocence and child-like love.
Maximos, James, and Sophia…allow me to be the first to officially welcome you to your new family. You stand here this morning in the Kingdom of Heaven, surrounded not only by your newest brothers and sisters in Christ, but by all of the Saints who have come before us. They are here and everywhere throughout the world, asleep in the Lord.
Today marks the beginning of an incredible journey which lasts for eternity. Yes, there will be times when this journey is marked with difficult struggles and temptations, but I can promise you that there will be even more indescribable joys. There will be many days that you will have complete clarity and strength of faith; however, as with many things in life, there will be days when trying to maintain this sacred gift of Orthodoxy that you have received today will be difficult. In those difficult moments we are reminded of that image of the crowd surrounding Jesus in todays’ Gospel.
So often when there is a sea of people standing in a small area, it is the little ones, our children, who have the easiest time weaving in and out of feet. They have a much easier time than we do, in trying to maneuver closer to the center in order to reach Christ—who is at the center of all things. In those moments of difficulty, remember the example of the innocent one that was baptized with you today, allowing her radiance to act as a beacon of light to draw us out of the darkness of the world and into the Unending Light of the Kingdom which is to come.