Sunday October 09, 2016- The Orthodox Church welcomed a new warrior for Christ, Donna Perpetua, who was Chrismated and illumined in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Here is the Sermon Fr. Gabriel gave on one of the reasons why Donna joined the Orthodox faith.
Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ, for the second week in a row, we have increased our ranks by welcoming another warrior for Christ, Donna Perpetua, into the One Holy Catholic, Orthodox, and Apostolic Church.
We have this week, a case that is somewhat different than Benedict’s baptism last week. Donna was not born Orthodox, and had to seek out the faith after living her life outside of the Church. I am sure there are many reasons as to why and how the events of her life have led her to this moment…but there is one in particular that her patroness…the Holy St. Perpetua…experienced before her martyrdom in 203 A.D…and one that ties nicely into the Gospel lesson which we heard this morning.
The Gospel today speaks of our Lord passing by a funeral procession, which was leaving the village of Nain. The deceased is a young man who had recently passed away, and following close behind the body was his mother…already a widow from the passing of her husband.
Close your eyes for a minute, and imagine the grief that this woman was going through. It is hard enough to lose a husband…but it is downright heartbreaking to lose a child. At that time, the woman of the household was wholly dependent on her husband. If he had passed on, she became wholly dependent on her sons for support. So the death of her husband and son…her entire support system… was one which devastated this woman in every way.
Imagine what must have been going through her head, while she walked to the freshly dug gravesite. She had lost the one she loves…and her life….her future… stretches out before her empty and foreboding.
In an instant, Jesus understood the situation of the widow. St. Luke tells us that he was moved by compassion, and he stretched forth his hand and brought the man back to life. This widow was not a follower of Jesus. She didn’t even know who Jesus was, and yet our Lord simply performed this miracle out of love.
Brothers and Sisters, in our weakness, we will still ask ourselves in moments of despair, why does God not answer my prayers? When I am in need, or someone is sick and dying…how many times, O Lord, have my prayers gone unanswered? How many times must I experience a break-up with my girlfriend or boyfriend until I find true love? How many relatives have I lost and how many friends have I buried? Where were you…Lord…when I needed you the most? You resurrect a boy from the dead thousands of years ago and yet you never work these types of miracles in my life.
In times of ultimate despair, we might even sometimes echo the words of our Lord on the Cross when we say: “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?”
In our country, and all throughout the world, statistics will show you that people are leaving Churches in droves. The biggest reason for this is that many in the congregation will ask themselves these same questions…and in a moment of defeat, they will say to themselves: “What is the point? What am I getting out of this?
When we hear the answer, it easily explains why we come to the Church Services. We don’t come because we feel guilty for missing. We don’t come because our parents and grandparents built the Church and we have to keep the doors open. We don’t come because the bible says we should.
We come because our faith tells us that God is Love…and God is Hope. He offers hope to all of us who have to deal with the trials and tribulations of our fallen existence. He offers a light at the end of the tunnel to those who are in states of grief and despair by giving us the Church, which acts as a place to experience the peace of the kingdom of heaven…offering us a glimpse at the life which is to come.
God is Love…and God is Hope.
Donna’s Patroness, St. Perpetua, knew this fact all too well. She was martyred after confessing Christ as her savior, and was baptized a Christian in the midst of a society that demanded that she pay homage to pagan idols or risk losing her life.
Despite facing her own mortality, despite trying to be dissuaded by her own Father on several occasions to give up Christianity, despite just giving birth in prison to a new born son, her focus was on Christ and the life which was to come. She was granted the power to see visions of the Kingdom while in prison, which gave her even more hope and courage to persevere. Her faith was so strong, that when an inexperienced executioner had difficulty fulfilling his task, this courageous saint, full of the hope and love of Jesus Christ, guided the tip of the sword to her throat and welcomed the martyrdom that would allow her to spend eternity in the warm embrace of our Lord and Savior.
Of the many things that Donna Perpetua will no doubt experience in the Orthodox Faith, the Love and Hope of our Savior will be something that will continually propel her throughout her spiritual journey.
Perpetua, you will continue to face many trials and tribulations throughout your life. But in the face of all of those trials, you can now echo the actions of your patroness, and experience the Love and Hope that Christ offers all of us to keep moving forward in this life. You can take comfort in knowing that you have the promise and power of the Holy Spirit sealed inside of your very being. In a few moments, with awe and trembling, you will approach the chalice and partake of the Body and Blood of God Himself, and will be given the strength and nourishment you will need to press on in the darkness of this world.
God is Love…and God is Hope. May He give us all the courage to continue the march without fear, towards His Heavenly Kingdom.